Estimates Day, Department for Education: Closing the disadvantage gap and support for left behind children, House of Commons, 7 July 2020

Councils are concerned about additional vulnerabilities arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes more families living in poverty; mental health issues amongst both children and parents; increasing domestic abuse; and increasing substance misuse issues. In particular, councils are concerned that falling referrals to children’s social care following the partial closure of schools means that children are experiencing ‘hidden harm’.


Key messages

  • Effective, high quality early years provision makes a difference to young children, helping to break the cycle of disadvantage, improving social mobility and offering them a good start in life. Early years providers have stepped in to provide care for vulnerable children and the children of critical workers, to help deal with the COVID-19 crisis. The Government must ensure that there is enough money to support providers who are closed to make sure there are sufficient childcare spaces when the current crisis ends.
  • Children with social workers are more likely to experience poor educational outcomes than their peers. The Department for Education’s (DfE) Children in Need review in 2019 identified that ‘children who have needed a social worker have poorer educational outcomes at every stage of education than those who have not, and taking account of other factors associated with attainment, are up to 50 per cent less likely to achieve a strong pass in English and maths GCSEs’.
  • Councils are concerned about additional vulnerabilities arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes more families living in poverty; mental health issues amongst both children and parents; increasing domestic abuse; and increasing substance misuse issues. In particular, councils are concerned that falling referrals to children’s social care following the partial closure of schools means that children are experiencing ‘hidden harm’.
  • Councils have continued to support children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). Significant extra pressure has been placed on council’s SEND teams to support children and young people due to COVID-19, due to an increased volume of work. We want to work with the Department for Education to tackle outstanding issues, such as the provision of home-to-school transport.
  • Our ‘Re-thinking local’, the LGAs virtual conference report, highlights a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to address the stark inequalities the pandemic has exposed, including those affecting vulnerable children. Local government is offering to build on the effective partnerships established with schools and settings to support and protect children, young people and families. We are asking Government to invest in preventative universal and early help services to ensure that children, young people and families receive the practical, emotional, educational and mental health support they need, as soon as they need it.

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