Budgets for children’s services could be squeezed as councils face further pressure to make efficiency savings during the global financial crisis, a government minister has admitted.
Children’s minister Beverley Hughes said there was “potential” for the economic downturn to force local authorities to cut services for vulnerable young people.
The admission came just 14 months ahead of the government’s 2010 target for halving child poverty from the 1997 baseline, which campaigners say will not be met without additional investment of £3bn in benefits.
Reforms not complete
Hughes said she regretted that the economic slump had come before reforms laid out in the Children’s Plan, from “crisis prevention to early intervention”, were fully implemented.
Speaking at the National Children and Adult Services conference, she said: “Had we had a bit longer in that transformation we might be a bit more sure in terms of the impact of the economic downturn.
“There is a real concern that just because of where we are in terms of that process…there may be potential of the downturn to [hit resources for children’s services].”
Although Hughes was confident that early years provision was now geared towards identifying problems at an early stage, she conceded the same could not be said for young offenders.
Strong leadership and innovation ‘crucial’
She said local leadership would be crucial in reducing the inequalities faced by children living in hardship, and promised to support the development of the workforce to that end.
In a separate debate at the Liverpool conference last week, Caroline Kelham, head of the government’s child poverty unit, said just giving disadvantaged families more money wasn’t enough, and urged professionals to show more innovative practice.
However, Kate Green, chief executive of the Child Poverty Action Group, said “only fiscal measures have time to take effect” before 2010.
“We know that money can be found,” she said.
“When you look at the eye-watering amounts provided for the bail-out of the banks, £3bn seems a moderate amount.”
Child poverty rose in England to 2.9 million in 2006-7, up from 2.8 million in 2005-6.