Children’s minister Beverley Hughes told local government leaders yesterday that she was hoping to announce local settlements for at least some elements of children’s services in the next few weeks.
Speaking to the inaugural conference of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services in Manchester, Hughes said she understood councils’ need to be able to get on and plan how to maintain services beyond the lifetime of the various ring-fenced funding streams due to end in March 2008.
“We have had our comprehensive spending review settlement as a department and we are in the process of allocating those resources internally,” Hughes said. “I completely understand – and everywhere I go I am made to understand – that we need to try and give you the information about allocations as early as possible.”
Hughes admitted that much of the work in potential jeopardy as a result of funding fears related to some of the priorities closest to the government’s heart. She said she hoped to be able to make an announcement, on those elements at least, “within a few weeks, rather than months”.
ADCS vice-president Maggie Atkinson said that pots of money were disappearing next March that would affect services in Gateshead, where she is group director of learning and children. These included Children’s Fund funding, youth offending team money, money for tackling teenage pregnancy, some of the positive activities funding, some school standards funding, and some neighbourhood nurseries funding.
With these all coinciding with the end of various ring-fenced funding streams for adult services too, Atkinson predicted many councils would not be able to sustain current levels of service provision without alternative additional resources.
“Wherever you look – but particularly in disadvantaged areas like Gateshead – we are going to struggle. We can’t main-line all of it. So what are we going to stop doing?” she said.
Last month, ADCS wrote to Ed Balls, the new secretary of state for children, schools and families, calling for “equity of funding” across integrated children’s services.
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