Spring Statement: no light at the end of the tunnel for children’s services

Posted by AfC Policy and campaigns / Tuesday 13 March 2018 / Children's rights
Worcester City activities 2015

Philip Hammond was nothing if not true to his word when he stood at the despatch box today. Today was no mini-Budget. But there’s little virtue in continuing to deny the crisis in children’s social care.

(Under)statement of intent

Few people outside Westminster will notice the Chancellor’s speech. Hidden away on a Tuesday afternoon, with no headline-grabbing leaks hitting the front pages and in the absence of a red box photoshoot outside Downing Street. Today’s first Spring Statement in a re-jigged parliamentary calendar marks the Government’s intention to have just one big Budget a year.

So, in this afternoon’s Spring Statement, we heard the latest economic and fiscal forecasts prepared by the Office of Budget Responsibility and the Government’s outlook on the economy.

It’s good to talk

But, having this kind of Spring Statement was also meant to provide new opportunities for government to reach out at an earlier stage of the policy-making process. With more time for consultations and calls for evidence, we had hoped to hear the Chancellor outline plans to shore up children’s services.

Our Turning the Tide report showed that funding for local authorities is falling and so, inevitably, is spending on children’s services. Rising demand is creating a significant shortfall between the cost of delivering services and the money available. This funding gap will reach £2 billion by 2020, with the most deprived local authorities already seeing the largest cuts to their children’s service funding.

 

"When it comes to spending to save and government investing in the nation’s future, the fiscal and moral priorities must be giving children the best start in life."

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But when the Chancellor got to his feet, he stuck resolutely to the script that ministers and officials had laid out beforehand. Growth forecasts, inflation, interest rates and borrowing were the mainstays. Mentions too came for everything from health and road building to innovation and R&D. But the “light at the end of the tunnel” was dimmed by the silence on children’s social care.

Today was a golden opportunity to open an honest dialogue about funding for children’s services, involving the sector and grappling with the issues being faced.

The fact that’s not happened isn’t the failure of the parliamentary timetable but down to a lack of political will.  

 

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