Vulnerable children aged six to 13 face a lack of support from services despite the critical importance of this period for their development, Action for Children said today.
In a report, it called for the service gap to be filled to help children, particularly those who are disabled or in poverty, deal with increased peer pressure, greater exposure to influences such as alcohol and family problems such as divorce.
The charity said services were often focused on early years and adolescence. From 2003-8, the government provided £780m in ring-fenced funding for services for five- to 13-year-olds, through the Children’s Fund. However, though it extended the fund from 2008-11 with £396m, funding is now directed through local authorities as part of the area-based grant, which is not ring-fenced.
Cut in Children’s Fund projects
Ross Hendry, head of public policy at Action for Children, said the charity had seen “quite a significant drop off” in services since the Children’s Fund was mainstreamed into council budgets.
Today’s report said Action for Children were now funded to provide 38 Children’s Fund projects, down from 151 in 2001, when the fund was launched.
Hendry said current services for the age group were centred around education, but added: “Schools are actually the least best places to reach out to these children because many are disengaged from school or have negative experiences with teachers.”
A survey of 600 Action for Children service users aged six to 13 for the report found over a third (38%) had had problems with their family life, such as divorce, bereavement or insecure and uncertain home lives. A similar proportion (35%) said they had been bullied, a problem experienced by 77% of those with learning difficulties aged six to 10.
Problems outside school
“Most of their issues are outside of the school system, but this is often missed because funding has been diverted to early years and older young people. Issues for the middle years have been squeezed,” said Hendry.
The report was launched as part of Action for Children’s As long as it takes campaign to ensure consistent support for children as they need it, including through long-term policy making.
Hendry added: “What we’re looking for is a one vision that the government should have for children right through to adulthood. We want children to feel supported, not just as five to 13 years olds, but continually throughout their childhood.”