DfE set to axe £200m grant scheme for children's charities

By Neil Puffett

| 12 February 2016

The Department for Education is set to scrap a grant scheme that has provided more than £200m to voluntary and community sector children's organisations in the past five years, CYP Now understands.

Charities that have benefitted from the DfE's voluntary and community sector grant scheme include Action for Children and Barnardo's. Picture: Janaki Mahadevan

The voluntary and community sector grant scheme was established under the coalition government to support organisations providing services for children, young people, parents and families.

Dozens of charities have benefitted from financial support provided by the programme, including 4Children, Action for Children, Barnardo's, The Children's Society, UK Youth, and mental health charity YoungMinds.

Another beneficiary was the now defunct charity Kids Company, which closed in controversial circumstances last year. It received close to £9m in the first two years of the grant programme.

In total, £60m a year was awarded in 2011/12 and 2012/13, followed by £30m a year in 2013/14 and 2014/15. A further £25m was handed out in 2015/16. In addition, £60m of government contracts were also awarded under the scheme in 2013/14 and 2014/15.

Kathy Evans, chief executive of Children England, which provides support to voluntary and community sector organisations working with children, young people and families, said some charities may continue to receive funding from the DfE on an individual basis, but are yet to receive confirmation.

"These are difficult times for all organisations and finding the funds to keep vital children's services going is a challenge," Evans said.

"The risks to some vital services are increasingly serious."

One of the charities set to be affected is Children and Families Across Borders, which has received funding for the past five years to run an advice line providing support to social workers dealing with international child protection cases.

Last year the charity dealt with a record 1,962 calls, helping 76 per cent of UK local authorities.

Chief executive Laura Parker said demand for the service, which was funded to the tune of £157,000 through the grant scheme in 2015/16, is on the rise and likely to increase further with more children coming to the country from abroad as a result of the Syrian refugee crisis.

She is keen to secure alternative funding from the DfE, but concedes the charity may have to foot the bill out of existing budgets and make cutbacks elsewhere if it is to continue providing the support.

"It is clear that the number of international cases is going to increase, with more and more unaccompanied children arriving in the UK," Parker said.

"Our significant concern is where are local authorities going to get this advice?

“We hope that given the proven demand from social workers for help with international cases, and the government’s recognition over many years of the value of our advice line, that we won’t now have to rely on voluntary fundraising to keep it going."

The Department for Education told CYP Now that grant funding for the voluntary and community sector will continue, but declined to say whether this will be through a continuation of the existing scheme or individual awards on a smaller scale.

It also declined to say exactly how much will be provided.

“Voluntary and community sector grants are not ending," a spokeswoman said.

"These grants play a valuable role in supporting thousands of vulnerable children and their families, and are key to ensuring these children can fulfil their potential.

"We are committed to working with the sector and will begin the grants process shortly.”

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