Sector fears hung parliament inaction could harm services

Neil Puffett
Friday, May 7, 2010

Organisations across the children's sector are today coming to terms with the implications of a hung parliament after the general election failed to give any single party a clear majority.

Following a night of drama, the Conservatives ended with the most parliamentary seats with Labour suffering heavy losses and the Liberal Democrats doing worse than expected.

The result has led to concerns that a hung parliament could have a negative impact on services for children and young people.

Anne Longfield, chief executive of 4Children, said there could be issues around funding decisions as many programmes currently in place come to an end in 2011. "If you look at funding for schools or other funding programmes, there is a need for early decisions and early planning. A lot of that is happening locally now but I'm not sure that is the case nationally.

"It gets more difficult the longer it's left — there needs to be good engagement centrally in some of those decisions before the summer."

Joyce Moseley, chief executive of crime reduction charity Catch22, said she has concerns a hung parliament could lead to inaction: "We know there are going to be public spending cuts but the longer local authorities and the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) have to wait to know the frameworks they have got work in, I think the more knee-jerk reactions there will be."

Elaine Hindal, director of the Children's Society's campaign for childhood, said it is vital for children's services that there is a smooth transition to whoever takes power.

"Whatever the make-up of the new government, they must put the interests of children first when formulating policy," she said.

"The Children's Society hopes that the next government will take a look at the current safeguarding system, to make sure the services it delivers take into account the direct experience of each child. Disabled children and younger children are particularly at risk of having their wishes and feelings ignored or unrepresented when critical decisions are made about them.

"Disabled children can be extremely vulnerable and rely on adults generally, and professionals specifically, to see, hear and protect them," Hindal added.

Robert Tapsfield, chief executive of the Fostering Network, said: "All parties have said they are committed to improving services for children in care and the best proposals in the past have often enjoyed cross party support. A hung parliament where political parties have to work together may prove to be good news for children in care."

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