Government clawback threatens Children’s Fund projects

Some Children’s Fund partnerships are facing big
shortfalls in the next few months as the government claws back
money they didn’t spend in the first half of the financial
year, writes Frances Rickford.

New funding rules published in the summer warned that for the
first time if Children’s Fund partnerships had not spent half
their annual budget by October, they may have to pay part of it
back even if projects had been promised the money.

Now some areas have been told they are to lose up to
£300,000 as a result of underspending in the first half of the
year. One Children’s Fund manager said this clawback would
mean local services for children would have to close.

“Sometimes projects take longer than expected to get up
and running, and as a result they haven’t got the
infrastructure to accept funds they have been promised until later
in the year than we planned.

“They still need the money, but the government has said because
it wasn’t spent by October, we can’t have it”.

There are also worries about next year’s Children’s
Fund budgets, which have not yet been announced.

The Children’s Fund was established three years ago, and
last year’s spending review allocated a further £600
million to the Children and Young People’s Unit to enable it
to continue funding preventive services for children aged five to
13 until 2005-2006.

With the recent re-organisation of government responsibilities
for services for children, the CYPU has itself been abolished, and
there are fears that money earmarked for the Children’s Fund
could now be diverted to other programmes. If this happens, some
local services could close at the end of March 2004.

No-one from the Department for Education and Skills was
available for comment.

Source: 0-19

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