Government funding for early help services is expected to be cut by 71 per cent, from more than £3.2 billion to less than £1 billion, between 2010 and 2020, leaving children and families without the early support that often stops their problems spiralling out of control.
The 'Losing in the long run' report published today by the charities Action for Children, National Children's Bureau and The Children's Society questions the sustainability of further cuts and examines the amount of money central government is giving to local authorities for early intervention services.
Children's centres, teenage pregnancy support, short breaks for disabled children, information and advice for young people and family support are some of the vital services that are affected by the cuts.
Many councillors are now questioning whether they can keep services open. A survey of more than 500 local authority councillors in England revealed that 59 per cent are worried that a reduction in government funding will mean a reduction in these services. This is despite the vast majority (87 per cent) of councillors saying that early intervention is a high priority for their local community.
Although councils will gradually gain new powers to raise revenue to pay for services through taxes collected from local businesses, 59 per cent believe that it will be impossible to maintain current levels of spending on early support.
Kate Mulley, Director of Policy and Campaigns at Action for Children, said:
"Governments have hacked away at the budget for early help, and we are set to see further reductions, which is simply short-sighted. Intervening when a crisis occurs instead of working at an early stage to prevent it from happening, has a devastating cost both in social and financial terms.
"The Government has committed to improving children's life chances, in particular, giving the most disadvantaged children the start they need. This report raises questions about how this objective will be achieved and whether local authorities will have the capacity to invest in services for children, young people and parents.
"We are calling on Government to prioritise the services children need to help build a better future."
Anna Feuchtwang, Chief Executive of the National Children's Bureau said:
"There is widespread support for stepping in to help children and families at an early stage - this approach improves children's lives and saves money in the long term. Unfortunately, in practice early intervention services simply have the rug pulled from under their feet - with government providing only a fraction of the funding it has in previous years.
"Before making further cuts we urge the government to consider the long term decline in how we support these services and in turn the severe consequences it has for the children and families that rely on them."
Peter Grigg, External Affairs Director at The Children's Society, said:
"This and previous governments have claimed to be committed to the concept of early intervention, yet our analysis makes clear that this rhetoric is not matched by investment in the very services that can prevent future spending on picking up the pieces. In presiding over a cut this huge the Government is risking the future of early intervention as we know it. This will have real long-term consequences for children's health, education and futures. Early intervention and help for children of all ages improves their lives, stops damage, and prevents more costly remedial solutions as they get older.
"The Government should prioritise funding to make sure councils can maintain these essential services. If we keep cutting it will cost us all dearly in the long run."