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Securing our future, today

In December, the government published its provisional local government finance settlement for 2020/21. It contained some good news but it didn’t ease my deep concerns about the long-term funding of children’s services and the danger of us becoming a ‘blue light service’.

The settlement includes £1 billion of new funding for children’s and adult social care which is welcome. £1 billion is a lot of money but three times this amount is needed by 2025 to plug the funding gap in children’s services alone. Local government funding has halved since 2010 but need has not, so in order to meet the increasingly complex level of need in our communities we are having to cut the very services that prevent children from reaching crisis point and reduce demand. This is a false economy and is storing up huge human and financial costs.

The importance of funding for the Troubled Families Programme cannot be overstated. In many places this funding is resourcing essential early help and prevention services. So, I was pleased to see the government commit to funding the Programme for another year, but there is no guarantee that it will continue beyond 2021. This means tough decisions about the future of services may still have to be made. I am deeply concerned at what seems to be a continuation of the government’s piecemeal approach to funding children’s services. Small, ad hoc, single pots of funding for some local authorities over others are particularly unhelpful.

Ahead of the Budget, the Treasury must recognise the value of sufficient, long-term investment in children and young people. I don’t just mean a three or five year settlement for children’s services, we need substantial investment that transcends parliamentary cycles. This would require upfront investment, but it would pay off in the long term. It’s the ultimate invest to save case, spend on the children of today and improve outcomes for the adults of tomorrow.

This year I hope to see a step change in the way government funds the vital services children, young people and their families rely on with a stronger emphasis on early help. Another year cannot go by with ministers focusing more on ‘getting Brexit done’ over improving the life chances of our children and young people. They are our present as well as our future.

Rachel Dickinson is Executive Director People at Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council and ADCS President 2019/20.

This column first appeared on the MJ website on 28 January 2020 | More

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