The government’s early intervention grant (EIG) will provide 10.9% less funding than the aggregated 2010-11 funding that councils received through its predecessors.
The Department for Education announced that in future most of its funding for local councils would flow through the EIG but admitted that the overall cash would fall to £2.2bn in 2011-12, from £2.5bn in 2010-11. In 2012-13, councils will receive £2.3bn.
While the funding is not ring-fenced, the government has told councils that Sure Start centres, child care for disadvantaged two-year-olds, and short breaks for disabled children should be prioritised.
Subject to parliamentary approval, the government has committed to extending free early education with an entitlement for disadvantaged two-year-olds from 2013, funded by an additional £300m a year by 2014-15. Through the EIG, £64m and £223m will be available over the next two years so that authorities can “build capacity and quality” in this area.
Regarding short breaks, education secretary Michael Gove said: “Providing respite to the most vulnerable families improves their outcomes and reduces the cost of care. That is why we have included within the EIG £198m to £202m, at the same time as investing directly in the voluntary and community organisations that support this work.”
Gove said there was also enough money in the EIG to maintain the existing network of Sure Start children’s centres.
“Most Department for Education funding for services for young people will flow through EIG. As we maintain the commitment to raise the participation age to 18 by 2015, the grant will help local authorities to support vulnerable young people to engage in education and training, intervening early with those who are at risk of disengagement.”
The EIG funding streams are: targeted support for young people, key stage 4 foundation learning, Sure Start centres, early years sustainability, early years workforce, early learning and childcare, families with multiple problems, and disabled children’s services.
The grant will also cover targeted mental health in schools, the children’s social care workforce, a replacement for ContactPoint and the recycled money from the Child Trust Fund.
President of the Association of Director’s of Children’s Services Marion Davis said the settlement did not leave councils “much room to manoeuvre in making smart, rather than quick savings”.
“The cuts come on top of substantial in-year cuts to grants,” she said. “The reduced quantum in funding as well as the pace at which reductions will have to be made is forcing councils to make extremely tough choices in children’s services, at a time of rising demand for some of the most expensive child protection services.”
She said that the overall funding settlement in the EIG “may not have the desired impact on service transformation that Ministers hope for”.
“The grant is not new money, nor is it equal to the amount of money received through previous grants for specific services that are now under the ‘early intervention’ banner,” she said. “Indeed, if Sure Start was to be protected in its current form, there would be very little left to support wider early intervention services, for example crime prevention projects with young people.
“There have already been some signals from government about how ministers from various departments would like this money to be spent but if localism is to be meaningful, local authorities must be left to decide where these resources can make the most difference to their communities. It would be disappointing if the ring-fence was re-imposed by stealth, through targets, guidance and political pressure.”
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New grant for children’s services