Community budgets could take on youth offending cash

Funding for youth offending teams, the government’s Work Programme and the early intervention grant could be channelled into “community budget” pilots from 1 April.

First announced in October’s spending review, the community budgets were hailed by Chancellor George Osborne as a way of focusing on family intervention by “enabling a more flexible and integrated approach to delivering the help these families need”.

The 16 areas (28 authorities) chosen to test the budgets are now finalising plans to introduce the budgets at the start of the coming financial year.

In a letter from the Treasury to the pilot areas, it was suggested that central government funding streams that could be used in community budgets include discretionary funding from the Work Programme, funding for youth offending teams, primary care trust funds and the early intervention grant.

Paul Carter, leader of Kent County Council, one of the pilot areas, said: “We have long been calling for a move to area-based budgets and the freedom at a local level to use funding and resources to best support our communities.”

But the New Local Government Network has criticised community budgets for being too limited. “The government’s proposed reforms will offer some additional freedoms to local areas to pool resources, cut out duplication and intervene earlier and cheaper to prevent costly cures,” a spokesman from the organisation said. “But significant limitations also persist. A ringfence will sit around social care and health, thus limiting scope to link in these approaches with housing, drug and alcohol abuse, leisure and parks, dementia, education, and employment.”

Community budgets are set to be rolled out nationally from 2013.