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What will happen to our Children’s Centres?

 

All the major political parties seem to agree that early intervention to support children’s’ learning is better than trying to deal with the issues further along their education pathway. Such an approach seems like good common sense and you would therefore expect the Government and the Local Councils to operate according to this view. Not only does such an approach help children in their learning but it also is effective in the long term in saving the education service money.

How then are the Government and Local Councils keeping to this view of early intervention? The answer is that they are not really supporting it. Looking first at the Government’s actions. The Children’s Society have produced a lot of information on the funding for the Early Years sector. They show that in 2010 they amalgamated a number of funding streams into the Early Intervention Grant. This covered expenditure on support for children’s centres, early years and children’s social care workforce development and family support services. In 2010 this grant was about £3.2billion in today’s money. By 2015 the value of the grant had been reduced to about £1.5billion. By 2020 the grant is expected to fall to £900million. This is equivalent to a cut of about 70% over the course of the decade from 2010 to 2020. Clearly this is not very supportive of children’s education by a Government who claims to have preserved the amount we spend on education!

How then have Local Councils fared in the face of these massive cuts? Overall, local councils in England reduced the spending on children’s centres and young people’s and family support services by over £958million in 2015-16 compared with 2010-11. This is a cut of 31% in an area that many councillors believe is a high priority for their local council.

How does Cambridgeshire County Council fare in this regards? In 2010-11 the Early Intervention allocation, excluding the offer for 2 year olds, was £27,300,000. By 2019-20 the allocation is proposed to be £8,600,000. That is a total reduction of £18,700,000 or 69% of the 2010-11 allocation. In a document prepared by one of the Council Officers makes it clear that the cuts being considered in the Councils Budget for 2017-18 include a reduction in the total budget for Children’s Centres in Cambridgeshire to £2.5million. In 2014 the document puts the total budget for Children’s Centres at £6.3million. So between 2014 and the projected budget in 2017-18 there will be a cut of 60% in the funding of Children’s Centres in Cambridgeshire.  So Cambridgeshire County Council is just following the orders of the Tory Government.

How will these cuts be implemented? Inevitably there will be redundancies in the workforce of the Children’s Centres and the subsequent loss of experience, skills and expertise. Inevitably this will mean that fewer children will be supported by the Children’s Centres and the likelihood that there will be considerable fewer Children’s Centres in Cambridgeshire. All this at the same time that the population of Cambridgeshire is growing and this will put additional demands on the Children’s Centres!

But this is not the end of the picture. By 2020 the Government aims to remove the whole of the Revenue Support Grant, of which the Early Intervention Grant is a part, and let Councils be funded by their own business rates. How is the Council going to finance the remaining Children’s Centres? Will the Council ring-fence money for Children’s Centres? If so how much will they ring-fence and what service will it provide?

The need to defend the Early Years provision in Cambridgeshire is one of the reasons why Cambridgeshire National Union of Teachers is supporting the recently formed campaigning group ‘Action Together for Schools and Education’. This group, composed of parents, education workers and trade unions, will be campaigning on a series of educational issues one of which will be Early Years provision in Cambridgeshire.

 

Monday 11 December 2017