Our review of 2015: Part Two

Father and sons

The second part of our review kicks off at the midpoint of 2015 with children’s centres and early years at the top of the agenda.

 

In July, Sam Gyimah MP the Minister for Childcare and Education announced that the Department for Education would be consulting on the future of children’s centres. This coincided with Action for Children new briefing series on the future of children’s centres, Beyond the Building which we published across August and September. Looking at how centres have changed, and are likely to continue to evolve in a difficult funding climate, we proposed local authorities take more flexible approach to delivering programmes and classes across communities with a renewed focus on supporting children and parents in the earliest years.

 

Away from children’s centres, Action for Children’s Fair Deal campaign reached a crucial point in early October. The publication of our report, Getting a Fair Deal? published called on the Money Advice Service, the independent organisation responsible for financial capability in the UK, to specifically reference vulnerable young people in their new national strategy. When the strategy was published in October we were pleased to see our recommendation had been taken on-board. We are still calling for government to do more, including creating a financial inclusion champion and we published our new report Ready to Work? which makes the case that money skills are a vital way to increase young people’s chances of finding and keeping a job.

 

October also saw the beginning of the party conference season, with all eyes on the new party leaders delivering their maiden party speeches. Action for Children attended Conservative, Labour and SNP conferences to talk about our latest work. We also heard about government places to undertake a public consultation into whether the reporting of child abuse by regulated bodies should be made mandatory.

 

With conference season behind them, politicians returned to Westminster with tax credit cuts high on the agenda. As members of the End Child Poverty coalition, Action for Children help successfully campaign to see the Government change its approach to cutting tax credits. After defeat in the House of Lords, the Chancellor promised to review his approach and announce changes at the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR).

 

Although the CSR saw the Chancellor announced the scrapping of the plans to cut child tax credits, there was worrying news about the reduction in early intervention funding over this parliament as government phases out central grants to local authorities and give councils more responsibility to raise funds for their local services.

 

In Northern Ireland, Action for Children’s work with Assembly members help lead to the Children’s Service Co-operation Bill pass through the Assembly. This now means that that government departments in Northern Ireland deliver children and young people’s services in a way that focuses on the family not the different departments.

 

As we entered December the Work and Welfare Reform Bill 2015, and the Government’s approach to life chances, reached an important stage in the House of Lords. With increased scrutiny of the Government’s proposals a host of amendments were put forward, including those Action for Children have been working on to see government monitor the number of children reaching a good level of development by age five. As interest increased, the Department for Education and Department for Work and Pensions Select Committee announced a joint inquiry starting in the New Year into the role the foundation years should play in the Government’s approach.

 

It has been a jam packed 2015. From the progress made of raising the foundation years up the agenda to the successes of our Fair Deal campaign, there are many highlights. With the children’s centre consultation soon to be published, the foundation years life chances inquiry just getting started and our Fair Deal campaign still keeping up the pressure on MPs to make sure young people have the support they need.

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