CYP Now expert panel responds to spending review

In the wake of the spending review leading figures tell CYP Now how they think government cuts will impact on professionals, children and families.

Fiona Blacke, chief executive, National Youth Agency

Like everyone, I am trying to get my head round what the CSR will mean. There are some obvious questions like why has child benefit stopped being a universal allowance when heating grants and free travel for older people haven’t?  Or what will it mean for public services when the cap on housing benefit bites and young people from disadvantaged urban communities become ghettoised in areas where the private rental market is cheapest? Or indeed what will be the impact on post-16 participation when the national funding formula for education maintenance allowances is removed and replaced with something that is down to local discretion?

But the biggest question for my sector must be the impact of cuts in local government support from central government and the removal of ringfencing of key budgets. We already know from our recent “For Youth’s Sake” survey with CYP Now, CHYPS and NYCVS that cuts are already biting in voluntary and statutory provision for young people. Now it is going to be down to communities and local elected members to determine where the axe falls locally. Let us hope they remember that young people are their future and that a robust local youth offer makes for stronger communities and savings in public services in the long term.

Maggie Jones, chief executive, Children England

The cuts proposed to the non-schools budgets in the DfE settlement amount to some 12 per cent and are among the most severe of any government department, which is bad news for children young people and families and evidence of shortsighted thinking on behalf of the department. This will impact on preventative work, safeguarding, children in care, youth services and family support. When these are combined with the knock-on effect from the cuts in welfare, the 28 per cent cut for local government and budget pressures in the NHS the future looks very bleak for some of the most vulnerable children and families; the very people the coalition government promised to protect.

The UK is still one of the richest countries in the world; we should be ashamed that even one child is living in poverty, let alone almost three million. Although the Chancellor says that child poverty will not increase as a result of his decisions, we believe the impact of this spending review will only make things worse for families who are already struggling the most, and those who are just hanging on by their fingertips. The withdrawal of services, reduction of benefits and increasing unemployment is a nightmare scenario for thousands of poor and middle-income families who did nothing to contribute to the deficit and are being asked to pay the highest price for the mistakes of others in positions of power. It’s hard to see the fairness in that.

We are clearly pleased with the £100m transition fund for the voluntary and community sector in the Cabinet Office, which Children England called for in our submission to the spending review; but remain very worried about the immediate future since this will not meet the considerable need in our part of the sector alone. Because many children and young people’s charities and community groups have responded constructively to government pressure to compete in the mixed market of children and young people’s services, a very high proportion are funded through local and central government funds. They have already sustained serious in year cuts as a result of the emergency Budget, and look set to suffer disproportionately again. The sector supports some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children and young people – young carers, teenage parents, children and young people in and leaving care, families struggling in poverty, with addiction, mental health problems and relationship breakdown. The impact on them will be very serious, and in no way offset by improvements in schools.

 Just how does the government intend to protect the most vulnerable when they are simultaneously cutting back state support and damaging the big society organisations which it claims will fill the gap?

John Chowcat, general secretary, Aspect

Vital support lifelines for England’s schools will be cut, due to this government’s contraction of public expenditure. The 2010 comprehensive spending review announcement includes a 30 per cent cut, in real terms, in local authority finances. Such a disproportionate reduction in local government spending will impact sharply on important local authority education and children’s services already suffering from the £311m cuts this year announce by Education Secretary Michael Gove in June.

Modern school-based education, in order to be effective, inevitably requires expert external support on a wide range of key issues, from procuring and utilising new educational technology to incentivising pupil attendance and identifying and providing for different types of special educational needs. In addition, school leaderships need — and good school leaders positively welcome — professional external monitoring, support and challenge to sustain and improve their overall educational performance. No individual school can expect to handle these complex and fast-changing issues on its own, since education today is, by its nature, a multi-faceted and collaborative endeavour. The vast majority of the nation’s schools have regularly received this necessary support from specialists employed in local authority education and children’s services, and are now beginning to complain loudly as they become aware of the cuts – and, in some cases, abolition – of these vital local services. The Audit Commission’s comprehensive annual school surveys in England demonstrated, over many years, how highly appreciated these services were by local schools right across the country. These new government cuts will therefore be felt directly on the frontline, in schools and colleges.

Dr Chris Hanvey, chief executive, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health

“To govern is to choose. And we have chosen the NHS,” so said George Osborne in setting out the most significant spending cuts in peace-time Britain. At face value, those of us concerned with child health should be pleased: the NHS will receive a real terms budget increase; there will be an additional £1bn provided for social care channelled through the NHS; medical research funding will be protected; public health grants will be ringfenced; children’s talking therapies and Sure Start will be supported.

Yet, at the same time, the deep cuts in local authority budgets will inevitably have knock-on effects on children’s health, particularly in relation to health promotion. The already announced changes to quangos that contribute to better child health are illustrative of this, which means that though child health may have escaped the worst of the pain in the near term, our failure to invest adequately in children’s health now will store up a legacy of future poor health.

Marion Davis, president, Association of Directors of Children’s Services

There is no doubt that the funding settlement for local government and for services for children, young people and families other than schools will mean some incredibly tough decisions being made in every local area – this will not be easy and will require strong partnerships both within councils and across public agencies to make the most of the money available, but there is no doubt there will be fewer services on offer than before. The protection of the schools budget and the pupil premium is, of course, welcome and councils will want to work with local schools to help them to support the most vulnerable children to achieve their potential.

Directors of children’s services, as part of the corporate management team, will have to argue strongly for investment in early intervention and prevention services as well as funding to meet their responsibilities to children at risk of harm given the removal of the ringfencing around funding for services for children. Research has shown that the numbers of children being referred to children’s social care and progressing through child protection systems, resulting in larger numbers of children and young people entering the care system – without investment in early intervention, these numbers will continue to rise, placing even greater pressure on local authority budgets.  Local authorities must maintain their focus on helping the most deprived children and young people and mitigating the effects of poverty on their opportunities. Councils’ responsibilities to tackle child poverty will be even more important given the reductions in welfare and benefits payments that have been announced.

Alison Garnham, chief executive, Child Poverty Action Group

Low-income households, women, children and families have all been targeted in a cuts programme that is extremely unfair and a major economic gamble. The government’s own figures show that the poorest 20 per cent will have their incomes hit worse than anyone else by the spending review.

The promise of fairness has been completely broken. Some families will lose hundreds of pounds, some thousands of pounds, some will lose their jobs and some will even lose their homes.

The Chancellor said it was a deliberate choice to cut £18bn from benefits and social security. Even worse than the refusal to ask the wealthiest for a fair contribution through tax is the lack of action on tax cheats who are costing the nation tens of billions that could reduce the deficit without the need for any cuts for families.

We expect to see an increase in child poverty with harm done to children’s lives and life chances. While we must work with government to ensure an effective child poverty strategy is published in the spring, some of the cuts we must fight it every step of the way.

Professor Corinne May-Chahal, interim co chair, The College of Social Work

The college will be closely monitoring the cuts to the DfE budget and what these will mean to the most vulnerable children and families in society and those that support them. The interim board will examine ways in which the college can support the social work profession across the board in delivering these services.

Cuts to higher education budgets will also affect the profession and those in receipt of services. The profession and it’s training needs to attract the highest quality of applicants while maintaining the breadth of diversity reflective of the communities it serves. The college will actively engage with the consultation on the recommendations of the Brown review; ensuring that social work remains at the forefront of essential occupations. It will champion the importance of recruiting a future workforce grounded in standards of excellence and diversity.