Time to change the way we spend

Posted by / Friday 05 December 2014 / The Red Book Autumn statement Children's centres

Without a change of approach at all levels, the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement could have stark implications for the services children and families rely on.

This week’s Autumn Statement was the last big parliamentary event of 2014 - and one of the last before next May’s General Election.

Most of the big announcements had been rumoured well in advance of George Osborne standing up at the dispatch box. Infrastructure spending, £15 billion on roads, and £2 billion extra funding for the NHS was splashed across the weekend papers.

Early intervention

Much of the attention was focused on the Chancellor’s speech, and the headline GDP figures. But it was the accompanying papers which contained some of the most interesting news.

Tucked away in the many pages of the Treasury’s Autumn Statement document was information on new early intervention pilots for 0-2 year olds, which will build on the good practice coming through the troubled families programme. There was also £5 million for pilots of numeracy and literacy support for parents to help them find work – all through programmes based in Children’s Centres.

We know that all political parties will face difficult decisions after the election about where to spend money. With this in mind, it becomes even more important to make sure government is making the most of resources. We all need to be thinking about innovative approaches to delivering public services.

Forward thinking

The first step should be to make five-year funding commitments – from the 2015 Spending Review to the 2020 General Election – to allow local councils, and other service providers, to make longer-term plans. This would increase stability in services, allow a shift to early action and, most importantly, children could stick with the same support staff as they grow.

Better use of community budgets and pulling together funding from a range of different departments locally, will help push stretched resources further. It will also allow different departments to come together and invest in services that aim to prevent problems, without taking a large slice from money they need to spend elsewhere.

Our recent research shows that services are struggling to meet demand despite finding innovative ways of working. Without a change in approach, future spending updates delivered by the Chancellor could have stark implications for the services children and families rely on.