Social care did not get an obvious mention in this week’s Budget speech, as Gordon Brown concentrated on reviving New Labour’s old mantra of “education, education, education.”
While some professionals called the Budget a “missed opportunity” to help vulnerable people, others gave a cautious welcome to Brown’s pledges on young people and the voluntary sector, which are outlined below.
Children and young people
A total of £440 million – the Budget’s biggest separate outlay – will go direct to school head teachers, but campaigners questioned whether children’s services linked to schools would receive investment.
Councillor Les Lawrence, chair of the children and young people board at the Local Government Association, said: “Any extra money going to schools is a big help. But by pumping the cash directly into schools, the government must not forget all the other services that make up a child’s environment.
“It is these services and organisations that must work closely with schools to deliver the Every Child Matters agenda.”
Some of the answers could come out of the policy review of children and young people set out in the Budget.
It will consider areas including the role of universal services in providing access to support, delivering early intervention, and providing better support for families with disabled children. The review will also consider a 10-year strategy to change youth services.
George McNamara, policy officer at children’s charity NCH, predicted the review could make a “huge difference” by targeting resources at children who needed the most help.
“This will be the next stage of building on the work of Every Child Matters, now that a lot of structural change has occurred. It will also help towards achieving the government’s target of eradicating child poverty,” he said.
A consortium of disabled children’s charities including Contact a Family, Mencap, the Council for Disabled Children and the Special Education Consortium welcomed the review. In a joint statement, the charities said: “It is excellent news that the chancellor has recognised disabled children and their families are still getting a raw deal. Disabled children have for too long fallen through the cracks in children’s services and now we have a real chance to address this.”
Young people will also get:
- £2 million to fund a national competition in 2006-07 to recognise and reward innovative projects run by young people, for young people
- £2 million over two years for the Football Foundation to fund programmes for young people
- £6 million over two years to fund opportunities for disadvantaged young people to develop new skills in a range of media
Kevin Williams, YMCA national secretary said: “Finally, here is a Budget for young people. These projects, when combined with the £115 million already pledged for young people, the money promised for schools and the new windfall from dormant bank accounts should make a real difference.
“We now need to pin down how and when all this money will be invested in youth services so it is a concrete fact rather than a vague promise.”
The child element of the child tax credit will increase “at least in line” with the average earnings until the end of this parliament.
The Institute of Fiscal Studies said that “while sounding impressive,” the rise would only maintain current levels of child poverty.
Additional child trust fund payments will be given to children at the age of seven.
Currently, all children get a one-off payment of £250 at birth, with £500 for children from low-income families.
Child benefit for the eldest or only child will rise from £17 to £17.45 a week.
Chairman of the Local Government Association, Sir Sandy Bruce Lockhart, said: “It is a pity that the chancellor has missed an opportunity to help meet his child poverty reduction target by reforming council tax benefit.
“At a time when households are facing increasing costs, enhancing the take up of the council tax benefit by the low paid would have helped reduce poverty. The current system is too complicated and fails to provide an adequate safety net for many of the poorest families in the country.”
The Treasury is to set up an office for voluntary sector finance, which will be advised by organisations.
There will also be a review into the future role of the voluntary sector in social and economic regeneration involving the largest consultation ever done with the sector.
It will be the first review of the sector since the Treasury’s cross-cutting review of the relationship between government and voluntary sector in 2002.
David Hunter, policy and development officer at the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations welcomed the proposals but was sceptical about what they would achieve.
“While helpful, the review may really just confirm which issues are really hampering the sector from growing and working sustainably,” he said. “It’s time for action rather than reviewing.”
He added that he hoped the review should consider the “perennial issues” of funding and contract length.
Stuart Etherington, chief executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) said the proposals were an encouraging sign of the government’s commitment to the sector.
“NCVO has called for a ministerial position with responsibility for the sector, and the establishment of a third sector office in the Treasury goes a considerable way towards meeting this. It is vital that it is coordinated in a strategic, cross-departmental way.”
The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) will allocate £970 million for shared equity to help 35,000 new homeowners.
Adam Sampson, director of Shelter, said: “The chancellor’s drive to boost home ownership may be good news for some lucky first time buyers. However using public money to fuel the acquisition of personal wealth will do nothing to help those in the greatest housing need.
“Housing inequality is a key driver of social exclusion, so it is crucial that the government commits to building more social rented homes in the next comprehensive spending review if it hopes to deliver improvements in health, child poverty and education.”
Sarah Webb, director of policy and practice at the Chartered Institute of Housing said: “As the millions for shared equity seems to be existing ODPM money reshuffled we need to know what existing programmes are being cut to fund it.”
Pensioners, along with disabled people, will get free off-peak bus travel in all parts of the country from April 2008.
In line with previous government announcements, pensions for a single person will rise by £2.20 to £84.25 a week from April, and go up by £3.55 to £134.75 a week for married couples.
Pensioners will also receive a £200 winter fuel payment while the over-80s will get £300 – the same as this winter – for the duration of this parliament.
Sandy-Bruce Lockhart, chairman of the Local Government Association, said pensioners would be “dismayed” by the chancellor’s failure to renew last year’s commitment to a £200 council tax rebate for pensioners.