Spending Review: The sector delivers its verdict

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

As the dust settles following the government's comprehensive spending review, experts reflect on what the announcement could mean for the children's sector.

Sir Paul Ennals, chief executive, National Children’s Bureau

The announcements signalled a welcome retention of funding for our schools and for most of our early years services. However, this protection could result in larger cuts to those important services that enable children and young people to arrive at school healthy and ready to learn, for example family support services and children’s social care services.

With a 12 per cent reduction in the DfE’s non-schools budget and a 28 per cent decrease in local council allocations over the next four years, schools must prepare themselves to shoulder more of the burden of supporting children and their families.

However, we warmly welcome the early intervention grant indicated within the Treasury documents, which NCB proposed to government. This funding should be directed to those services where evidence shows a reduced risk of harm for our children and young people.

Hilton Dawson, chief executive, British Association of Social Workers

We know there is a longstanding failure of local government to deliver effective support, resources and management for social workers who are in turn unable to provide a high-quality service – under even more devastating pressure, how can authorities be trusted to do the right thing? Government needs to listen directly to what social workers are saying if it really wants to achieve its goals.

Christine Lenehan, director, Council for Disabled Children

We are concerned that the 2010 spending review does not provide local areas with any clarity about the funding available for disabled children’s services. We know that services are already closing due to uncertainty about funding from April 2011. Every Disabled Child Matters urges the Department for Education and the Department of Health to write to local areas to confirm the funding that will be available for disabled children’s social care and health services in 2011/12.

Dave Prentis, general secretary, Unison

 The coalition is being dishonest by saying that the schools budget will be boosted. Schools also get vital funding and support services from local authorities, which are being hit by drastic cuts. Many will struggle to afford to help schools support children with special needs, or run truancy units. Schools will have to dip into their own funds to pay for these essential services.

Robert Tapsfield, chief executive, Fostering Network 

Today’s announcement has put local authorities under tremendous pressure to make savings in children’s services when there is ample evidence to suggest they will have to spend more on children in care.

As corporate parents, local authorities should be striving for the very best for the children in their care and good-quality foster care plays a vital role by providing these children with safe, stable and caring homes. Any decision to reduce spending on foster care is a false economy and would cost society dear in the long run.

Anne Longfield, chief executive, 4Children

We are concerned that the cumulative impact of a range of cuts and tax rises, including the VAT rise in January, will have a real impact on families who are only just getting by. 

Given the scale of reductions in funding going to local government and the ending of ringfencing many grants we will also be monitoring closely cuts to local services that families rely on.

Britain’s families will be relieved that Sure Start children’s centres will remain into the future, but with the ringfencing of the grant expected to be removed we will be watching closely to ensure local councils fulfil their obligations to provide sufficient centres. We also call on local authorities to make efficiencies in the Sure Start budget from administration and back-office functions, not from frontline services.

Kamena Dorling, legal and policy officer, Children’s Legal Centre

We welcome the government’s commitment to education and extending the schools budget. We are also delighted that Sure Start services will be protected in cash terms.

However, we are extremely concerned that the disappearance of the education maintenance allowance (EMA) could reduce the number of children staying in education post-16. We urge the government to act carefully in designing EMA’s replacement to ensure disadvantaged young people are not forced to leave education.

We are waiting anxiously for further details about the future of legal aid. If the Ministry of Justice is to absorb the Legal Services Commission, with a vastly reduced overall budget, it is very unclear how the government will ensure everyone can access justice.

Christine Blower, general secretary, National Union of Teachers

The government may talk about protecting schools, but schools are not protected and nor are local authorities. Attacks are already being made on additional education funding outside of the core schools budget, with vital frontline services to schools already under threat.

It is still not clear whether the pupil premium is new money, or if the funding for Sure Start is protected in real terms. Even in relation to school funding, to say that per pupil funding will be maintained in "cash terms" points towards a per pupil cut in funding in real terms. The Chancellor will need to reassure parents and teachers on this point. 

Lucie Russell, director of campaigns YoungMinds

We welcome the measures announced in the comprehensive spending review to expand access to psychological therapies for the young, and those with mental illness, and expand the use of personal budgets for special education needs, children with disabilities and long term health conditions.

These announcements  however are set against a backdrop of 28 per cent cuts in central government funding to local councils over the next four years, and an ask of £20bn of efficiency savings in the NHS.

We must ensure that these cuts do not affect investment in child and adolescent mental health services.

Dr Katherine Rake, chief executive, Family and Parenting Institute

The full impact of the coalition’s economic decisions upon families will now begin to emerge.

Families rely on state services more than ever in these difficult times. But the cuts to council budgets will inevitably damage these frontline services. Furthermore, it remains to be seen exactly what problems could be caused for families by the changes to housing benefits and the increased cost of rail fares.

The overall package of cuts could have a significant negative effect upon UK family life. We know that families have been deeply anxious over the cuts. Now that the full extent has been made clear, it is vital that the government makes it clear how it can bring families on the journey as it works to build a family friendly society.

Mark Lever, chief executive, National Autistic Society

The domino effect of cuts across school transport, respite care, crucial benefits and other vital services could push whole families to crisis point at profound expense to those local authorities left picking up the pieces.

Now more than ever, government must acknowledge the long term cost benefits of providing families affected by autism with the right support at the right time. The increase in social care funding is welcome, but it must be remembered that older people are not the only vulnerable group in society that need protecting.

Graham Hoyle, chief executive of the Association of Learning Providers
On skills and apprenticeships: We welcome the government’s confirmed commitment to apprenticeships as the flagship skills programme that can make the most difference to helping businesses lead us out of recession.
On young people: The abolition of the educational maintenance allowance will be a cruel blow to the thousands of disadvantaged young people who our members help every year to find employment via training unless the promised replacement of targeted support is applied to them.  Ministers must recognise that many of these young people come from broken homes with no access to financial support other than what the state provides.  
On welfare to work: ALP is pleased that private and third sector providers have been earmarked to play a major role in helping people back to work.  It is important though that ministers recognise the importance of skills training in enabling individuals to hold on to new jobs and progress within them.

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