Ministers admit youth social services are in trouble as inspectors slam waiting lists

The government is to take back partial control of youth social services after admitting efforts to decentralise care services for youngsters have not achieved what ministers had hoped.

Health minister Hugo de Jonge and justice minister Sander Dekker told MPs in a briefing on Friday that children with complex problems are not always being given the help they need on time and that vulnerable children are not always being protected.

The ministers’ decision to take partial back control of youth services coincides with the publication of a report by government inspectors, sounding the alarm about the level of care which is being provided.

Children with multiple problems, such as autism and an eating disorders, are not being helped quickly enough, more than half the child abuse hotlines report long waiting lists and 60% of children who need protection are not being helped on time, the inspectors say.

In some cases children who should be removed from their homes for their own protection are being left in dangerous situations because there are not enough staff to make sure they are safe, the inspectors say.

Some work, such as help for children with severe anorexia or those requiring foster families, will now be transferred to the 42 regional youth health boards, while local councils will remain in charge of social worker services, the ministers said.

Cost cutting

Local authorities were made responsible for youth care services in 2015 and since then the number of children in contact with youth social services has risen by 12% to over 400,000, the national statistics agency CBS said earlier this year.

The government saw the move as a cost-cutting exercise, in particular because officials hoped potential problems would be spotted earlier and that would require less use of expensive ‘specialist’ help.

In practice, more cases of children needing help were identified, leading to more spending and the need to make cuts.

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