Children’s Fund managers react cautiously to scheme’s extension

Children’s Fund managers have called for clarity on the news that
the previously threatened fund is to be extended until 2008.

The report accompanying chancellor Gordon Brown’s budget last week
reveals that the programme for five to 13 year olds is to be
continued to 2008 “to allow a smooth transition to new children’s

Leeds Children’s Fund programme manager Anne McGrath said the
extension was good news on one level, but “doesn’t mean anything
until they put something behind it”.

Earlier this year, programmes were told that their funding was to
be cut by 15 per cent in 2004-5 and 30 per cent in 2005-6. However,
the government has since found the money needed to stave off the
cut for the coming financial year.

McGrath said that programmes still did not know what their
financial situation would be after March 2005 and that effort was
now needed to improve the Children’s Fund’s reputation and save its

Another programme manager, who did not want to be named, added: “If
the intention is to sustain where we are now then we need to know
that as soon as possible. Once a service is closed it is closed.
You can’t just put it back on the shelf and wait for money.”

Money for the Children’s Fund between 2005-6 and 2007-8 will come
from the 4.4 per cent real terms increase announced for education
last week.

This increase will also cover an annual real terms rise of 17 per
cent for Sure Start, early education and child care, including
additional investment in children’s centres.

Children’s social services spending will rise from £4bn in
2005-6 to £4.5bn in 2007-8, “allowing them [social services
departments] to make a leading contribution to delivering the
vision of the children’s green paper Every Child Matters”.

However, the Budget report also reveals that job cuts at the
Department for Education and Skills will be higher than expected,
compounding fears about the work of its new Children, Young People
and Families Directorate. The report states that more than 1,400
jobs – 31 per cent – will be lost by 2008, rather than the 600 to
800 by 2006 suggested by the DfES last month (news, page 7, 12

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