In an open letter to Downing Street, the coalition, which includes representatives working across education, child health, social care, disability and poverty, demand that the Government recognise the ‘compelling’ evidence that the services and support children and young people rely on are at ‘breaking point’.
- Health visitors at their lowest since 2012
- Spending on Sure Start cut by two-thirds in nine years
- Hundreds of school staff buying food for hungry children
With the Chancellor delivering his 2018 Budget next Monday (29 October) and a spending review next year, the signatories insist that urgent action must be taken to put children at the heart of Government spending plans.
The letter, sent to the Prime Minister and Chancellor, highlights what the coalition believes are the ‘pressing challenges’ facing services and other support for children, and points to evidence showing that ‘significant challenges’ lie ahead, with the following figures:
- Up to 3 million children are at risk of going hungry during school holidays (report from All Party Parliamentary Group on Hunger).
- The number of children with special educational needs who are awaiting provision has more than doubled since 2010 (Department for Education figures).
- Almost three-quarters of school leaders expect they will be unable to balance their budgets in the next financial year (NAHT survey).
- 90 children are being taken into care every day – a record high (DfE figures on looked-after children).
The coalition is asking parents, families and other members of the public to show their support by signing a petition to the Government and using #ChildrenAtTheHeart on social media.
Anna Feuchtwang, chief executive of the National Children’s Bureau and Chair of End Child Poverty, said, ‘We’ve seen successive budgets come and go with token spending commitments for children and families. If austerity is really coming to an end, it's high time the Government puts its money where its mouth is, and makes a concrete financial commitment to the welfare of children.
‘Things we once took for granted, like family support, children’s centres, and respite care for families with disabled children are now the privilege of the few. In some areas of the country, over half the children are growing up in poverty. For these children and the many others who need urgent help, the services, benefits and support that could provide a lifeline have been cut to the bone. We are failing our children if we don’t put them at the heart of Government spending.’
The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) has backed the coalition's call.
Its president Professor Russell Viner said, 'As doctors, we are only too aware of the pressures placed upon children’s health services and know for many, the problem has reached emergency status.
'The Government has already indicated it is serious about protecting child health with the publication of its Childhood Obesity Plan which if delivered, will turn the tide on these obesity predictions. However the Chancellor's upcoming budget, along with the Government’s Long Term Plan, provide an opportunity to renew that focus and show support for other important child health concerns and I look forward to working alongside them to do so.'
The National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) has signed up to the campaign.
Chief executive Purnima Tanuku said, 'Government childcare policy of extending funded hours has led to more children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) entering nurseries. However, we know that nurseries find it very difficult to access funding from local authorities because of budget cuts to fully support these children, which means that for many their needs are not being met.
'With childcare funding stagnating and budgets being squeezed, there is less money for training so practitioners may not have the knowledge or experience to support children who have additional needs.'
She added, 'Investment early on for children makes all the difference to their life chances and opportunities. We urge the Chancellor and the Prime Minister to see sense, stop undervaluing our children and ensure those who support their development from the earliest stages have the resources they need.'