Charities urge government to prioritise early intervention services
There is a “clear challenge” for local authorities to continue to provide early intervention services due to financial restraints, a report has warned.
‘Losing in the long run’ by Action for Children, National Children’s Bureau and The Children’s Society warns that reforms to local government finance could see significant differences open up between local authorities’ ability to resource and deliver early intervention services.
“Central funding for local authorities is set to reduce over the next five years, and a much greater proportion expected to come from local council tax and business rates,” said the report. “Nationally, between 2010 and 2020, the central government allocation will fall from £3.2 billion to £939 million in real terms. That is a drop of 71 per cent.
“This fall has knock on effects. Since 2010, we have seen spending on some really important services fall at a local level. Spending on children’s centres is down by a half and young people’s services down nearly a third. Uncertainty about future funding poses some real problems for the councillors who have to make our local books balance,” it added.
While prioritising one service over another is never easy, the government needs to see the value of investing in early intervention services to prevent costly crisis care further down the line and local government must find ways to prioritise and allocate spending on services that make a difference and reduce the need for crisis intervention.
The report finds:
- Between 2010 -11 and 2015-16 spending by local authorities on early intervention services for children, young people and families has fallen by 31 per cent in real terms.
- Just under half of local authorities (45 per cent) have made cuts of at least 30 per cent in real terms to services for young people.
- Spending on family support services has fallen the least with just under a quarter of local authorities (24 per cent) reducing spending by at least 30 per cent in real terms.
- Between 2010-11 and 2015-16 the central government early intervention allocation to local authorities has fallen by 55 per cent in real terms.
- Between 2016-17 and 2019-20 the central government early intervention allocation will be reduced by a further 29 per cent in real terms.
While 87 per cent of councillors say that early intervention services are a high priority for their local authority, 59 per cent say there will be a reduction in early intervention services in their local communities. Councils will have new revenue raising powers from 2020, but nearly six in 10 believe that this won’t be adequate to maintain current levels of spending on early intervention services.
The charities are calling on central government to commit to annual ‘early intervention’ top ups for local authorities after the Revenue Support Grant has been phased out. This should be determined by local need.
As part of a review of the needs assessment formula, the government should identify how to ensure that local authorities are spending resources on services for children, young people and families to prevent problems from escalating.
In addition, the government should review current reporting mechanisms so there is a better understanding of how much is being spent on early intervention services.
The report also calls for local government to prioritise resources raised through business rate growth for early intervention services, using local needs assessments and open consultation with local residents.