Restore child support to 2010 levels, say peers

More than a million vulnerable children in England have had their life chances reduced by cuts to early years and youth support since 2010.

The new Public Services Committee says that a lack of investment in protecting children at risk of serious harm has been felt disproportionately in the most deprived areas—resulting in worse life chances for children, bigger bills for taxpayers and more pressure on social services.

Spending on early intervention support in areas of England with the highest levels of child poverty fell by 53 per cent between 2010 and 2019, research by Pro Bono Economics for the committee found, including: Walsall—down 81 per cent; Manchester—down 75 per cent; and Liverpool—down 65 per cent.

The committee wants the government to pledge to return to higher 2010 levels of investment in early help services to support children and families. Ministers should set out urgently a national cross-government funded strategy with a plan for a nationwide roll-out of Family Hubs (centres where families and young people get joined-up help with a range of problems) at its heart.

It argues that a recent commitment to fund a small number of Family Hubs in only half of local authority areas will not compensate for the closure of children’s centres and falls ‘far short’ of the vision set out in its own Early Years review which recommended that all families should be able to access a Hub.

Baroness Armstrong, chair of the committee said: “We face a crisis in child vulnerability which needs urgent action. Too often public services can’t help children before it’s too late. Too many children fall through the gaps, go into care, are excluded from school or end up in prison – all of which costs the public purse more in the long run.

“We’re pleased that the government is supporting some areas to develop Family Hubs but it now needs to commit to a national roll-out, with the most deprived communities given priority, to help vulnerable children and their parents. Effective early intervention services could reduce the role of the state in family life by supporting parents to meet their children's needs.

“The government talks a lot about ‘levelling up’ so to start with it should restore funding for early intervention to 2010 levels and ministers must match their stated ambition on child vulnerability with urgent action to improve the life chances of disadvantaged children.”

Anntoinette Bramble, chair of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board, said:“This important report is a stark reminder of the challenges councils face supporting and protecting vulnerable children. Funding announced by the government in the Spending Review to invest in children’s health and well-being and parenting support was helpful. However, with spiralling demand on children’s social services and future cost pressures in children’s social care set to increase by an estimated £600 million each year until 2024/25, councils still find themselves in the unsustainable position of having to overspend their budgets.

“Councils want to work with government on a child-centred, cross-government pandemic recovery plan which offers the very best future for children and families. This would need to be supported by the right level of funding to enable councils to provide the early intervention and prevention support to stop children reaching crisis point in the first place.”

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