A £560m cash injection for youth services and an investment of £500m in supporting families and early years, including a network of ‘family hubs’ have been confirmed in today’s Spending Review.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said his youth services package 'was enough to fund up to 300 youth clubs across the country' and the Spending Review offered more money for childcare providers and early years staff training and development.
He said the Government would invest an extra £200m in the Supporting Families programme, and provide over £200m a year to continue the Holiday Activity and Food Programme.
Mr Sunak told the House: ‘The evidence is compelling that the first 1,001 days of a child’s life are the most important… We are responding today with £300m for a Start4Life offer for families, high quality parenting programmes, services to help with perinatal mental health and funding to create a network of family hubs around the country.
‘To improve the quality of childcare we’re going to pay providers more, with today’s Spending Review providing an extra £170m by 2024-25. We’re confirming £150m to support training and development for the entire early years workforce.’
The chancellor said the Spending Review ‘also delivers our commitment to schools’, with an extra £4.7bn by 2024-25, ‘which combined with the ambitious plans we announced in the Spending Review of 2019, will restore per pupil funding to 2010 levels in real terms, equivalent to a cash increase for every pupil of more than £1,500.’
Mr Sunak said that for children with special educational needs and disabilities, ‘we are more than tripling the amount we invest to create 30,000 new school places’. In addition to the £3.1bn already announced to help with education recovery, the chancellor said he was today confirming a further ‘just under £2bn of new funding’ for schools and colleges, bringing total support to almost £5bn.
He also announced a surprise cut to the Universal Credit (UC) taper rate, saying it would boost spending on UC claimants by £2bn and would mean that 'a single mother of two, working full time on the national minimum wage, would be better off by around £1,200'.
The Autumn Budget and Spending Review published after the chancellor's speech says the Government will 'maintain the Public Health Grant in real terms, enabling local authorities across the country to continue delivering frontline services like child health visits'.
Speaking before the Spending Review, Labour’s shadow education secretary Kate Green said family hubs were ‘a sticking plaster for a fractured childcare and children’s services landscape’.
She added: ‘This supposed commitment rings hollow after 11 years of Conservative cuts have forced the closure of over a thousand children’s centres, cutting off the early learning that sets children up for life.’
President of the Association of Directors of Children's Services Charlotte Ramsden said: Today’s multi-year funding settlement provides some vital additional funds for children and families, many of whom continue to feel the effects of the pandemic in their day to day lives . Extra funding for the Supporting Families programme, school places for children with SEND, funding for youth work and the expansion of Family Hubs is recognition of the need for national investment in children and families, especially in relation to earlier help, something that has been absent in recent years.
'Nevertheless, any additional funding for local authorities will also need to take account of the rising costs of delivering services and the increasing demand many local authorities are experiencing. However, we hope that this is the first step in achieving a sustainable, long term funding settlement that fully meets the needs of children and families so that they can thrive, not just survive.'
She welcomed the announcement of additional funding for education recovery, but said it 'does not yet go far enough to meet the needs of children and young people who have experienced a substantial loss of learning opportunities over the last 18 months and continue to experience disruption in significant numbers.'
Ms Ramsden added: 'It is right that the government recognises the challenges faced by early years providers. Early years services are a vital resource for families, yet providers have struggled to remain open over the course of the pandemic. This funding falls well short of what is needed for the sector to achieve a sustainable footing going forward but will go some way to supporting the training and development of the workforce, an area that has been significantly overlooked. Further, we welcome funding for parenting support and peri-natal mental health through family hubs to support the critical early years of children’s lives.
'Whilst it is positive that extra funding has been allocated to develop more school places for children with SEND, this will take time to deliver and only alleviates some of the substantial pressures in the system. We still await the outcome of the SEND review which must address the systemic challenges we now face in the delivery of our statutory duties.'
Chief executive of the Early Intervention Foundation Dr Jo Casebourne called the extra £200m to expand the Supporting Families programme, ‘a much-needed cash injection into a struggling system of support for children and families’.
She said it was crucial that the programme ‘is carefully targeted, focusing on improving the quality of support and developing greater understanding of what support makes a real difference’.
Dr Casebourne said it was important to use the opportunity provided by the expansion of the programme ‘to develop much-needed evidence on what works most effectively to support vulnerable families’.
She added: ‘We still know far too little in the UK about how best to reduce the risk of abuse or neglect and there have been too few high-quality evaluations of the type that are needed to understand what works.
‘Today’s expansion of the programme is a crucial opportunity to change this. If we do not evaluate different ways of delivering the programme and then focus on using the support that is proven to work, there is a risk that we get to the end of the period that the Spending Review covers and realise that not much has changed for the families this investment is supposed to help.’
Barnardo's interim co-CEO Michelle Lee-Izu said: 'We welcome today’s £500m package for families unveiled in the Budget as an important step forward in helping them access support earlier. Evidence shows that providing families with appropriate support through our family hub on the Isle of Wight saves the taxpayer £1 million a year. We run children’s centres and family hubs across the country, and we know they make a vital difference to parents and children struggling with challenges like poverty, mental health and domestic abuse.
'That’s why we are calling on the Government to go even further and ensure there is a hub available to those who need it in every community - to help families with everything from breastfeeding to keeping teenagers safe from criminal exploitation.'