Council children's centre funding cuts double in a year

Jess Brown
Thursday, December 10, 2015

The pace of cuts to local authority spending on children's centres has doubled over the past year, latest council figures reveal.

Data drawn from Section 251 returns by councils published by the Department for Education today show spending on children’s centres fell from £1.1bn in 2013/14 to £0.9bn in 2014/15.

The £200m funding cut is twice the reduction compared with the year before – between 2012/13 and 2013/14, council spending on children's centres fell from £1.2bn to £1.1bn.

The figures, included in the Expenditure by Local Authorities and Schools on Education, Children and Young People’s Services report, also show spending on youth services fell by 12 per cent over the same period from £712m in 2013/14 to £627m in 2014/15. The £85m fall is slightly less than the £103m cut the previous year.

Spending on youth justice also fell by eight per cent, but council funding for looked-after children, safeguarding and family support services saw in increase over the year.

There was a decrease in local authority spending on “other children and family services” by 13 per cent. This includes grants to voluntary organisations, counselling services and support for children who abuse substances.

Commenting on the fall in spending on children’s centres, Kate Mulley, director of policy and campaigns at Action for Children, said: “The fall in spending on children’s centres is a worrying reflection of the pressure local authority budgets are under.
 
“Children’s centres are a vital local service, able to spot problems early and get children the help they need. From drop-in sessions, targeted parenting support and benefits advice, they make a difference to children and are valued by parents.
 
“We know local authorities are seeking to find ways to maximise funding. Prioritising resources in the earliest years, integrating with health and delivering services across community venues can support this. But we must ensure adequate funding is available to keep these resources available.”

Denise Hatton, chief executive of YMCA England, said she has concerns that youth services are often one of the first areas to be cut.

“Over the past five years, local authorities have had to operate under significantly reduced budgets and the figures released today shows that it is preventative children and youth services that have been an easy and frequent target when looking to make savings.”
 
“As a result of these cuts, more and more children and young people in some of the most deprived areas of the country are being left unsupported and isolated with little or no access to affordable activities.”

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