Conservative election victory to signal deep spending cuts

By Joe Lepper

| 08 May 2015

The children's sector is bracing itself for deep cuts in welfare support and Whitehall budgets following the Conservative Party's outright victory in Thursday's general election.

David Cameron is set to lead a majority Conservative government after winning Thursday's general election

With the Conservatives securing an overall majority in the House of Commons today, the party will have enough MPs to implement a raft of welfare and spending cuts outlined in its election manifesto.

It plans to cut spending by £30bn over the next two years, which includes £13bn in departmental savings, the same level of cuts made over the last five years while it was in coalition with the Liberal Democrats.

The Conservatives have also pledged to find £12bn in welfare savings. This is set to include reducing the benefits cap on families from £26,000 to £23,000 and clamping down on benefits to EU migrant families.

In its study last month of the main parties’ spending plans the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) said that only international development and NHS spending would be spared cuts under a Conservative government and estimated that over the next five years £30bn will be cut from unprotected departmental spending.

The Conservatives' manifesto makes a commitment to “eliminate child poverty” through “recognising the root causes of poverty; entrenched worklessness, family breakdown, problem debt and drug and alcohol dependency”. But child poverty campaigners have called on the party to rethink their tough stance on welfare cuts.

Alison Garnham, chief executive of Child Poverty Action Group, said: “As a priority, the new government must act to tackle the growing child poverty crisis it faces. According to the IFS, even before any cuts a new government may announce, the next few years will see a steep rise in child poverty that we’ve not seen for a generation.

“If the new government makes further large cuts to benefits for the low paid, to children and families in hardship, then the shadow of poverty will extend further over the childhoods and life chances of our children, costing taxpayers billions in extra pressure on public
services and wasted economic potential.

“In the spending review expected later this year, rather than tax cuts which benefit richer groups, we hope the new government prioritises help for low-paid parents, protects children’s benefits and develops an ambitious childcare strategy.”

In what was a devastating election result for the Liberal Democrats and Labour, a number of high profile MPs connected to the children’s sector lost their seats.

Among them was shadow chancellor Ed Balls, who while Secretary of State for children, schools and families in the last Labour government oversaw the implementation of Aiming High for Disabled Children.

Steve Broach, lawyer and disability rights campaigner, said on Twitter of Ball’s defeat that “disabled children have lost a key ally in Parliament”.

While welfare budgets are set to be cut, the Conservatives have pledged to boost free childcare, doubling the free universal allocation of 15 hours a week for three- and four-year-olds.

Other manifesto pledges set to be brought in include a requirement for children that fail their Sats exams in primary school to retake them at secondary school, and a major expansion of the free schools programme.

It has also pledged to expand the National Citizen Service to give a guaranteed place to all 16- and 17-year-olds that want one.

In addition, it promised to retain free school meals for infants at primary school and the pupil premium.

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