A senior Barnet councillor has called for more government investment after a report showed a major reduction in spending on early help services for young people.

Pauline Coakley Webb, chair of Barnet Council’s children, education and safeguarding committee, said the authority had been forced to make savings to compensate for a “woeful reduction in government funding”.

Her demand for more investment added to calls from a coalition of charities that has warned of a “vicious cycle” in which councils are forced to spend more on crisis support, leaving more children and young people exposed to risks such as exploitation, neglect and mental ill-health.

A report publised earlier this month revealed real-terms early intervention spending by the council on initiatives such as children’s centres, youth clubs and tailored support for substance misuse fell by 68%, or £17.6 million, between 2010/11 and 2020/21.

Alongside that came a 38% increase in late intervention spending, such as support for children in care and child protection – a rise of almost £15 million.

According to the figures, total spending on the borough’s children’s services department fell by 5%, to £66.4 million, during the ten-year period. Early intervention spending per child dropped by 71% to just £64.34.

The report, Stopping The Spiral, was commissioned by The Children’s Society, Action for Children, Barnardo’s, National Children’s Bureau and NSPCC, and is based on research by Pro Bono Economics. It reveals investment in early intervention support by councils in England fell from £3.8 billion to £1.9 billion during the ten-year period.

At the same time, government funding available to councils for children’s services is estimated to have dropped by 22%, from £10.4 billion to £8.1 billion, with the poorest local authority areas often forced to make the biggest cuts to early support services.

Meanwhile, spending on crisis and late intervention services soared by more than a third, from £6 billion to £8.2 billion, which was driven by a 24% rise in the number of children in care.

The charities are calling for the next prime minister to meet the recommendation made by the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care to invest a minimum of £2.6bn in children’s social care.

Responding to the report, Cllr Coakley Webb said: “Barnet has in recent years had to find ways of protecting frontline family services whilst making savings to compensate for the woeful reduction in government funding to local authorities.

“There are always ways to work more smartly, and we continue to find innovative ways to ensure that all our programmes for children and young people are the best they can be in order that they are able to live their lives successfully, with the right support and guidance.

“However, more investment is needed into children’s services nationally, to maintain practices to a high standard, and to ensure the needs of children continue to be met, especially for our looked-after young people.”

A government spokesperson said: “We have made an additional £3.7 billion available to councils this year alone to help them deliver key services and support families.

“We are backing families with better and earlier access to services that keep them safe and healthy, by expanding a network of family hubs all over England and increasing investment in the supporting families programme, which is helping to keep up to 300,000 families together safely and provide loving homes for children. This comes ahead of widescale reform to the care system through our response to the independent review of children’s social care.”