Early help for children cut by half

Jul 6, 2015 by

0512-onepalikids

Government funding of early intervention programmes for children and young people’s services has been cut by £1.8bn over five years, say children’s charities.

Funding to help vulnerable children in England has been cut by nearly £2bn over the last five years, say charities.

Early help by local authorities has been “a casualty of government spending cuts”, say the Children’s Society and National Children’s Bureau (NCB).

They say failure to intervene early means a greater cost to taxpayers later and will “damage young lives”.

The government said it had increased early intervention funding.

Early intervention funding – previously called the early intervention grant – enables local authorities to step in and help a child or young person who is vulnerable or at risk.

The help includes advice on teenage pregnancy or drugs and alcohol, and help from children’s centres and early years services.

In a report – Cuts that cost: Trends in funding for early intervention services – research suggests that government funding for a range of early help services in England fell from £3.2bn in 2010 to £1.4bn in 2015.

The charities say there are early indications, from a Freedom of Information request by the publication Children & Young People Now, that reductions in spending are set to continue for children’s centres and services in 2015-16.

A fund set up for the most vulnerable families in society, the Troubled Families programme, is expected to increase or remain stable.

Preventing crises

Experts in social work and child protection have suggested a potential link between the rise of child protection cases and the reduction in spending on early intervention services.

“Levels of demand on the child protection and care systems can provide some indication of the effectiveness of services that work to support families struggling to care for their children and prevent them reaching crisis point,” says the report.

Early intervention can turn around a child’s life, says the report

Matthew Reed, chief executive of the Children’s Society, said: “Early intervention and help for children of all ages improves their lives, stops damage, and prevents more costly remedial solutions in the subsequent few years.

“That’s why we are calling on government to prioritise funding for early intervention and help for teenagers and children to make sure councils can maintain these essential services as we enter another period of austerity.

“If we keep cutting early help now it will cost us all dearly in the long run.”

A government spokesman said: “Ensuring every child, regardless of their background, is given the opportunity to fulfil their potential is at the heart of this government’s drive to provide real social justice.

“We have invested more than £2bn in early intervention services, including 15 hours of free childcare for the most disadvantaged two-year-olds and enough funding to retain a national network of children’s centres, which are helping a record number of parents.

“We have given councils the freedom to use their funds on those services most needed by their communities. The £448m Troubled Families programme has turned around the lives of 117,000 of the most complex families, working with up to 400,000 more families from this year, backed with a further £200m investment.”

Source: Early help for children cut by half, say charities – BBC News

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