The Autumn Statement - what do we think?

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I spent an hour watching the Chancellor’s statement this morning and the last two hours getting to grips with the detail and thinking through what it means for the children and families we work with.

In the back of my mind whilst watching it were the families I met recently for the Red Book research.

  • Helen who constantly worries about the cost of food, fuel and energy. 
  • Alex a care leaver, who desperately wants a job so he can move forward with his life but remains, stuck on the job center conveyor belt of having to apply again and again for jobs he will never get just in order to qualify for benefits.
  • And finally a little lad (who I never caught the name of) but who I heard from a colleague was so distressed about tearing his trousers that he was inconsolable, not because he thought he was in trouble but because he knew his mother simply couldn’t replace them.

So what does the Autumn Statement mean for Helen, Alex, and the little lad in our children’s centre as well as the thousands of families across the country they represent?

The Chancellor made a number of helpful policy changes and spending announcements today including:

  • Free school meals for all school children in reception, year 1 and year 2
  • A freeze on next year’s fuel duty rise
  • An individual can earn £10,000 before they are taxed
  • Funding for Job Centres to support young adults in finding apprenticeships or traineeships.

The latter, I hope will help Alex. But I know he needs intensive support to get his reading and writing to even a basic standard, and that will take time and investment. The other measures will help Helen to some extent, but at the crux of her problem is the fact that her husband Adam is stuck in a low paid job which places untold pressures onto her family.

And what about the little lad in the children’s centre? What he faces is far more difficult to resolve. But he’s not alone. We know the funding cuts to vital support services have coincided with increasing pressures on households caused by unemployment, poverty and family breakdown. This is having a huge impact on children.

Our Red Book research shows that nearly two-thirds of our services are seeing children who require more help than ever before. More than half our frontline staff questioned for this research report the deterioration of children's mental health.

The pressure on these children is caused by problems completely out of their control. Another example of this is that more than half our staff said children are struggling because of domestic violence in their homes and 63 per cent said young people are coping with parental depression.

The services that prevent these problems from getting worse are stretched, or worse still, are closed.

On top of this, the cap on welfare spending also announced today will just add to these problems as it hasn’t come with measures to compensate for the impact on children and reduce the need for welfare in the first place.

Put simply, we needed the Autumn Statement to emphasise the need for and funding of early intervention. But it didn’t.

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