Charities urged the Government to support councils’ children’s services as they face a “perfect storm” brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

A report by several children’s charities said local authorities could soon be overstretched as they look to manage the impact of the outbreak.

The analysis, carried out by The Children’s Society, Barnardo’s, Action for Children, NSPCC and the National Children’s Bureau, suggested they are already struggling to cope with the combination of government cuts and increased demand.

And the group said the inevitable issues arising from the fallout of the Covid-19 crisis could see many vulnerable young people “slip through the cracks”.

Barnardo’s chief executive Javed Khan said: “We have long warned about the ‘perfect storm’ facing children’s social care, and the gap between demand and resource will widen further as a result of coronavirus.

“Even before the lockdown children were facing growing challenges, from knife crime and gangs, to cyberbullying and online grooming.

“Now there is a new wave of ‘hidden’ children, falling into poverty, experiencing domestic abuse and tipping the existing crisis in mental health into catastrophe.”

The group called for a new approach from the Government in supporting children’s services, including more sustainable investment.

It noted that limited funding – which, if increased, could be used to invest in early intervention services – means councils are often forced to act only when children reach crisis points, which can be costly.

Many councils are also trying to bridge any gaps by reallocating funds from other sectors – a model seen as unviable in the long run.

NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless said: “This was not sustainable before the coronavirus crisis and the impact of the pandemic and lockdown on children means it cannot continue. We need a new approach.”

Several Harrow councillors have called for greater government investment in local authorities for several years.

They said this is ever more apparent in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, which could set it back “up to £40 million”.

Cllr Adam Swersky, responsible for finance at Harrow Council, said: “Councils have been on the front line in this crisis. For the Government to turn its back on us now would mean the return of austerity with a vengeance.”

The Government noted it has provided an “unprecedented” emergency support package of £3.2 billion to help councils tackle the additional pressures they are facing.

This, it explained, is in addition to millions of pounds of extra funding for charities and extra measures to enable children to receive care online during the pandemic.