Flawed government funding for vulnerable children in the South West is creating a “time bomb” according to a new report from a children’s charity published today.
Action for Children says 23,426 children in the region are living in families with multiple problems and the number is expected to rise to 27,073 by 2015.
The charity’s “Red Book 2012” report examines how the recession is affecting spending decisions and blames the Government’s system of “short-term, quick-fix funding”.
Public spending cuts and planned welfare reform are particularly worrying to the charity. Fifty per cent of managers working for the charity reported increased demand on already stretched services with an emphasis on crisis management. Thomas McCulloch, the charity’s operational director in the South West said the report highlighted problems that have persisted for decades.
He said: “We are sitting on a ticking time bomb that has the potential for both human and financial repercussions.
“We welcome the coalition government’s commitment to early intervention but the current system of short-term, quick-fix funding is simply exacerbating existing need and instability, creating a false economy that could cost society more than £1.3 billion a year.”
Twenty-one per cent of Action for Children managers said they have had to amend the criteria for which children, young people and families are eligible for support.
Mr McCulloch said: “We need local services that have the flexibility to deliver the early intervention that’s so urgently needed in communities right now. Simple changes to the way the current system is funded are critical if we’re to have any hope of protecting future generations.”
The charity wants the Government to introduce a statutory duty upon local authorities to provide sufficient early intervention services in their local area. They also want a commitment to alternative and long-term funding arrangements for children’s services.
However, the Government insists it is boosting spending on vulnerable children.
Last night a spokesman for the Department for Education said: “We are increasing spending on children and young people’s services to £8.6 billion. Funding for early intervention will rise to £2.5 billion in 2014-15 and we are retaining a national network of Sure Start centres with 3,330 currently open in the areas where they are needed most. Parents of every three and four-year-old can already claim 15 hours of free early years education a week.”