Philip Hammond has courted young voters by extending eligibility for railcards and providing incentives for first-time house buyers, but has shown little concern for the plight of the nation’s children.
In his budget speech, the chancellor only directly mentioned children once, aside from setting out additional suppport for school pupils in Maths and IT. This sends the clear message that if you aren’t a potential voter, the government won’t make your welfare a priority.
Social care for children
Councils across the country are facing increasing demand for children’s social care, yet the government has ignored their warnings and done nothing to inject funding into services already cut to the bone.
Four in ten of the local councillors responsible for providing children’s social care say that a lack of resources is preventing them from fulfilling their statutory duties to children, including those at considerable risk of harm and abuse. We should be stepping in early to help these children and families, but this budget will force councils to provide social care on an emergency basis only.
We know that by the time they reach 14, one in four girls and one in ten boys will be suffering from signs of depression. While the promise of £2.8bn for the NHS is a welcome improvement, we are still far from providing the breadth of mental health support that children and young people urgently need, or to improve the links between schools and colleges and specialist mental health services.
Poor housing and poverty can hold children back in all areas of their life. It can mean that children don’t reach a good level of health or development, do well in school or reach their potential in employment.
The chancellor has pledged reforms to Universal Credit and tax thresholds but these will not prevent us hitting record levels of children in poverty in the next five years. In particular, this budget did not address the devestating impact of benefit cuts on the families of disabled children, many of whom are struggling to make ends meet.
Whilst schools will welcome additional money for maths and IT, we know that pastoral support is being cut as schools struggle with falling budgets. Children with mental health issues, those going to school hungry and those at risk of abuse and neglect have fundamental barriers to their education that funding for academic learning does nothing to address.