What did the budget deliver for children and young people?
Author: Toby North, Policy and Public Affairs Manager
The Autumn Budget and Spending Review contained lots of headline-grabbing announcements, but did the Chancellor deliver the new deal for children that we’ve been campaigning for?
The Chancellor talked about children, young people and families in his speech, but the detail of what he announced fell far short of the investment needed to ensure that every young person in our country enjoys a good childhood. Tonight many children and young people will still be going to bed cold, hungry and struggling to feel hopeful about their futures — and this autumn’s budget will do very little to help them.
Below we run through how the Budget delivered against our priorities, and what needs to come next.
Help for low-income families as we rebuild from the pandemic
It is essential that long-term funding is allocated so that councils can continue to support families facing financial hardship. But the Chancellor didn’t announce any additional investment here, meaning that once the Household Support Fund closes at the end of March 2022, millions of families could be left with nowhere to turn.
The Government did make some welcome changes to Universal Credit, alongside an increase in the minimum wage, to help families with parents in work. But early analysis shows that the increased cost of living is likely to offset any income benefit, and these changes will also do nothing to help families where the main carer is unable to work for whatever reason.
Investment in children’s services to support the most vulnerable
The Government must commit to reversing the decline in spending on children’s services, with a focused investment in early-intervention services to help children and families before problems reach breaking point.
There was some positive news in this area, with a package of £500 million announced which includes money for family hubs, early years support and an extension of the supporting families programme. £560 million was also announced for youth services, although disappointingly it appears that this is largely funding committed earlier on by the Government but never distributed. This cash is all very welcome, but a significant increase in investment is still needed to improve outcomes for the most vulnerable children and young people.
Prioritise the mental health and well-being of children and young people
Children and young people need a network of early intervention hubs so that they have somewhere to go in their community to receive support when they first struggle with their mental and emotional health.
Shamefully there was no mention of children’s mental health or well-being anywhere in the budget, despite the fact that 1 in 6 young people are likely to be living with a mental health issue today, and children’s well-being in the UK has now been in decline for a decade. Without these hubs, sadly more and more young people will reach crisis point before they are able to access support for their mental health.
We’ll continue to fight for the new deal that children and young people across our country so desperately need. We will hold the government to account and argue that they must level up opportunity, happiness and hope for every child and young person through investing in a bold, radical new deal for children across health, welfare, education, social care and beyond.
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Cuts to benefits and children’s services are leaving children without support. It’s time the Government prioritised children, add your name if you agree.