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

But there will still be less money available than now – the 2004-5
budget is £160m – leaving some projects facing an uncertain

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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