Council funding shake up ‘will not offset early intervention decline’

1 Mar 16

Full local retention of business rates will not provide sufficient funds to allow councils to maintain early intervention services at current levels, a poll of councillors has found.

A report produced by three charities published today found government spending on early intervention programmes for children will have been cut by more than 70% by 2020.

Action for Children, National Children’s Bureau and The Children’s Society today found that Whitehall funding for early help services would be cut from over £3.2bn in 2010 to less than £1bn by 2020.

These reductions would leave children and families without the support that can stop problems early, eventually costing the public sector more, the Losing in the long run report said.

Children’s centres, teenage pregnancy support, short breaks for disabled children, information and advice for young people and family support are among the services affected.

The report included a survey of more than 500 councillors, which found more than half (59%) were worried government funding reductions will mean reduction in early intervention. This is despite a large majority (87%) saying these are a high priority for their local community.

Over half of those polled (59%) said that it would be impossible to maintain current levels of spending on early support even after full business rates retention. The move to full local retention of business rates by 2020 will end Whitehall grants to local government, while councils will also take on extra responsibilities to make the switch fiscally neutral.

Peter Grigg, external affairs director at the Children’s Society, urged the government to prioritise early intervention funding to make sure councils can continue maintaining services.

“If we keep cutting it will cost us all dearly in the long run,” he said.

“This and previous governments have claimed to be committed to the concept of early intervention, yet our analysis makes clear that this rhetoric is not matched by investment in the very services that can prevent future spending on picking up the pieces. In presiding over a cut this huge the government is risking the future of early intervention as we know it.”

Anna Feuchtwang, chief executive of the National Children’s Bureau, said there was widespread support for stepping in to help children and families at an early stage.

“Before making further cuts we urge the government to consider the long term decline in how we support these services and in turn the severe consequences it has for the children and families that rely on them.”

Kate Mulley, Action for Children’s director of policy and campaigns added that reductions would be “simply short-sighted”.
Intervening when a crisis occurs instead of working at an early stage to prevent it from happening has a devastating cost, she said.

Commenting on the report, Early Intervention Foundation chief executive Carey Oppenheim said investing in effective and timely early intervention must never become a luxury.

“Our public services remain increasingly geared towards picking up the pieces from the harmful and costly consequences of failure. The government spends almost £17bn a year fixing social problems affecting children and young people. It is vital that we stop them happening in the first place.”

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