£2bn early intervention grant not enough say councils

The government's £2bn grant for early intervention will not be enough to save many early intervention and prevention services from cuts, council leaders have warned. (Picture: Rex)

The government’s £2bn grant for early intervention will not be enough to save many early intervention and prevention services from cuts, council leaders have warned.

The Department for Education has confirmed that the grant announced in yesterday’s spending review would not be ring-fenced. The grant also includes previously nationally distributed funds for teenage pregnancy, substance misuse/alcohol misuse, young people at risk of not being in education, employment or training, or of committing antisocial behaviour.

“These will be rolled into the early intervention grant, details of which will be announced in due course. This will allow local areas to fund activities and services that meet the needs of their young people. Funding will be used only on the most effective programmes that work,” a Department for Education spokeswoman said.

Stephen Jones, head of finance at the Local Government Association, told Community Care the early intervention grant was “likely to be integrated into community budgets because the first early intervention work is going to be directed at working with families with complex needs”.

However, he said he was unable to say exactly what the early intervention grant would pay for.

Marion Davis, president of the Association of Children’s Services, said the scale of the cuts to council budgets announced in yesterday’s comprehensive spending review meant “there is no doubt there will be fewer services on offer than before”.

“The protection of the schools budget and the pupil premium is, of course, welcome and councils will want to work with local schools to help them to support the most vulnerable children to achieve their potential. Directors of children’s services, as part of the corporate management team, will have to argue strongly for investment in early intervention and prevention services as well as funding to meet their responsibilities to children at risk of harm given the removal of the ringfencing around funding for services for children.”

She added that councils would have an even greater responsibility around child poverty given the reductions in welfare and benefits payments the Treasury had announced.

Graham Allen, Labour MP and head of the government’s Early Intervention Commission, said although the grant was unlikely to be enough, he felt it was a significant shift by the government to acknowledge the need to fund early intervention.

“We all knew it was going to be carnage yesterday. I keep saying this is a battlefield and in that battlefield we’re the poppy and it’s my job to try and protect that poppy from the buffeting around it and yesterday I felt there was a hopeful message around early intervention.

“I’m not naive – it’s not the most enormous pot of money nor is it ring-fenced. But the symbolism is important I feel and I’m hoping this will be the beginning of something new for government and I hope my review will nudge it in that direction even more.”

He said the challenge would now be to ensure the money was used for early intervention. “There’s a lot of people fighting very hard now to protect their projects and services and we have to be careful that we’re not hijacked by everyone who will try to claim their service represents early intervention. Teenage pregnancy, for example, I would not class as an early intervention measure. It’s very important but it’s part of good health services and prevention services; it’s not early intervention.”

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