Spending on children's centres falls by £110m

By Joe Lepper

| 06 December 2018

Spending on children's centres has fallen by £110m over the last financial year, a drop of more than 14 per cent, government figures have revealed.

A consultation on the future of Sure Start children's centres was announced in 2015 but has not been carried out. Picture: Lucy Carlier

Department for Education figures for confirmed spending by councils on children's services, show that in the 2017/18 financial year they spent £664.8m on Sure Start children's centres, compared with £774.3m in 2016/17 - a fall of £109.5m, or 14.1 per cent.

It is the latest in a series of annual declines in Sure Start spending over the last eight years. Last year's council spending figures showed that children's centre spending had fallen by £670m between 2010/11 and 2015/16.

A consultation on the future of Sure Start children's centres was announced in 2015 but has not been carried out. Last month MPs sitting on the science and technology select committee called on ministers to clarify the government's position on Sure Start and whether a consultation will take place.

Councils are continuing to propose cuts to children's centres. In October Buckinghamshire County Council announced plans to reduce the number of children's centres in the county from 35 to 14.

In September Norfolk County Council announced plans to close 87 per cent of its children's centres.

The government data also shows a fall in spending for youth services, down by £31.6m from £447.5m in 2016/17 to 415,926 in 2017/18.

Earlier this year Mayor of London Sadiq Khan announced plans to invest £45m in youth services in the capital over the next three years in response to council cuts in youth services spending, by £22m in London since 2011. This fall in council spending had resulted in the closure of 30 youth centres and the loss of around 12,700 places for young people.

Meanwhile, spending on supporting looked-after children and child protection has increased.

Children in care spending is up £379.9m, from £4.15bn to £4.53bn over the two years covered in the data, and child protection spending has increased by £12.5m from £2.33bn to £2.34bn.

The Local Government Association has warned that children's services across England will face a £3bn spending gap by 2025.

Anntoinette Bramble, chair of the LGA's children and young people board, said that councils are being forced to cut spending on early help services to meet demand for children's services.

"It is absolutely vital that councils are able to support families and help children who are at risk of significant harm, but it is also important that help is available before problems escalate to that point," she said.

"But this is being put at risk by the huge and increasing financial pressures children's services are now under, with many councils being pushed to the brink by unprecedented demand.

"Councils have done all they can to protect spending on children's services by cutting services elsewhere and diverting money, but despite this, they have been forced to reduce or stop the very services which are designed to help children and families before problems begin or escalate to the point where a child might need to come into care."

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