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.

    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 allocations could be as low as £110m because confusion
    in the allocations had seen the 149 Children’s Fund partnerships
    underspend between 2002 and 2004.

    The government announced the extension of the fund to 2008 as part
    of its July spending review.

    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.

    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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