Investing in the future?

Posted by AfC Policy and campaigns / Thursday 23 November 2017 / Government spending
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In the days before the Budget, rumours were rife that the Chancellor was planning a shift in focus that would put younger generations and the future at the heart of his announcements.

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Looking at his commitments, with pledges for young first-time house buyers, increases in financial support for T-levels at further education colleges and a railcard for "millennials", there is some truth in this.

However, these announcements look less like the transformational changes hoped for and more like small modifications of existing measures. The vital services that many children and families rely on, from support in the earliest years through to programmes aimed at preventing abuse and neglect, did not even receive a mention. And, with no announcement from the Chancellor, central government funding for early intervention services is still on course to fall by an estimated 71 per cent between 2010 and 2020.

Such programmes and interventions stop problems getting out of hand. But funding shortages are forcing councils to cut these essential services, leading to missed opportunities for early help, and more children reaching crisis point before children’s services are able to step in.

These funding shortages are also making non-statutory services that seek to prevent problems in the first place, such as children’s centres, a target for further savings.

There is overwhelming evidence that the early years should be the starting point if we want to improve a child’s life chances. Too many children are falling behind in the first five years of their life and will find it difficult to catch-up. In the most deprived areas of England, three out of five children walk through the school gates on their first day not ready to learn.

Funding for these services, which provide essential support for child development and family relationships, is fast disappearing. Yet there was nothing in the Chancellor’s speech to provide hope that this will change.

If the Government wants to deliver effective help, ministers must take the lead and ensure councils receive the funding they need to deliver the services that children and their families need. This means closing the funding gap for children’s services and committing to adequate funding in early intervention.

Doing so would truly be an investment in the future.