Mixed news on cash for Children’s Fund

    Children’s charities are cautious about the future of
    Children’s Fund projects despite budget cuts being less
    severe than feared, writes Derren Hayes.

    The Department for Education and Skills announced this week that
    the allocation for the fund over the next three years will be
    £411.5m, an average of £136m a year. Some had feared the
    annual funding could be as low as £110m because confusion in
    the allocations had caused disturption to budgets in the 149
    Children’s Fund partnerships during 2002 and 2004.

    As a further sweetener, increased flexibility will be built into
    the system so that funding underspends from the previous year can
    be carried over to the next. And partnerships will be allowed to
    weight their allocations so they receive more in one of the three
    years. The government announced the extension of the fund to 2008
    as part of its July spending review.

    But there will still be less money available than now – the
    2004-5 budget is £160m – leaving some projects facing an
    uncertain future.
    Paul Ennals, chief executive of the National Children’s
    Bureau, said that while the added flexibility and less severe than
    expected cuts were encouraging, the settlement was likely to cause
    problems.

    “It was initially hoped councils would fund some
    Children’s Fund projects as the ringfenced money reduced, but
    children’s budgets are looking fragile and the risk is that
    the preventive work it funds is often the most vulnerable [to
    cuts].”

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