The Department for Education and Skills has abolished a fund aimed specifically at safeguarding children despite evidence that some councils are still failing to adequately protect children in their area.
Inspection reports from the first five councils to undergo new joint annual reviews of their children’s services reveal that Herefordshire Children’s Services Authority Area is “inadequate” at keeping children safe. Wirral is considered to be merely “adequate”, while Slough, Enfield and Bournemouth are good. None are judged to be outstanding.
The news follows confirmation of the abolition of the £90m Safeguarding Children grant, which was introduced in 2004/5 to support councils’ efforts to act on the recommendations made by Lord Laming and the joint chief inspectors around the protection of vulnerable children.
In a letter sent to local authorities last week setting out funding plans for children’s services for the next two years, the box alongside the Safeguarding Children grant is left empty for 2006/7 and 2007/8.
Instead, the DfES flags up the introduction from 2006 of a new children’s services grant, which brings together the previously ring-fenced adoption support and special guardianship, Choice Protects and vulnerable children grants and also includes “new funding to assist authorities implement Every Child Matters – for example, for the further development of children’s trusts and the role of Local Safeguarding Children’s Boards”.
However, this new funding – which amounts to an extra £22.5m next year and £63m the following year – falls far short of the £180m provided under the Safeguarding Children grant over the last two years.
The Children’s Trust revenue grant, worth £3.5m this year, will also vanish from April, while funding for Sure Start and for the building and upgrading of facilities for young people will receive a boost.
A DfES spokesperson insisted it had always been intended that the Safeguarding Children Grant would be available for only two years and that the ending of it had been taken into account when setting the level of funding for the new children’s services grant.