Posted: 05 September 2013

Breaking Barriers: The funding challenge

Our new Breaking Barriers report sets out the challenges to engaging disadvantaged families with Sure Start children’s centres – including awareness of the centres and accessibility – but also the major changes to funding for early intervention services.

What has happened to funding for early intervention services?

In 2010, a number of different funding streams for early intervention were pulled together into the Early Intervention Grant. The biggest of these (more than £1.1 billion per year in 2010) was funding for Sure Start children’s centres. The grant also included support for a range of other projects, including short breaks for disabled children and the Connexions service.

The total value of the Early Intervention Grant when it was introduced was around £3 billion in today’s prices. By 2015 however, the value of the grant will have been nearly halved to around £1.5 billion. 

Additional funding has been made available to fund 15 hours per week free childcare for disadvantaged two year olds, which will help fund those children’s centres offering day care. In addition the government has made some additional money available to fund adoption reform. Figures are presented without this additional support, to reveal what funding is left over for other early intervention services - including, crucially, key funding for Sure Start Children's Centres.

Early intervention funding by local authority

The interactive map below shows how changes in funding breakdown for each local authority in England. These changes are presented in real terms and all amounts are given in 2012-13 prices.



What does the future funding look like for children’s centres?

There is already evidence that the funding situation of children’s centres is becoming increasingly precarious.  One 2012 survey of children’s centres found that around half said that their financial sustainability had worsened over the last 12 months, with nearly two-thirds saying they were operating with reduced budgets. Given the cuts to funding, it is critical that children’s centres use the resources they have as effectively as possible.  

Some of the recommendations made in the Breaking Barriers report (such as ensuring that children’s centres have access to live birth data) would help children’s centres engage more effectively with those families that need their support the most, without significant additional expense.

But, budget cuts create large barriers for services to deliver effective support – especially those families that are hardest to reach, including BME families and teenage parents. We want to see no further cuts to funding for early intervention services for children and families, and the funding for children’s centres to be ring-fenced. 


By Sam Royston - Policy team

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The situation in Birmingham is that the Council is looking for ways to use money from the Early Intervention Funding and the Designated Schools Grant to save making other cuts. The Green Paper (see its Schools Forum Website) lists £92.7M of services described as "Current General Fund spending on education services"

"The Council will enter into a dialogue with the Schools Forum with respect to expenditure that is currently being met by the BCC General Fund that could be charged to the Dedicated Schools Grant. In 2014/15, the budget planning assumption is that £8m will be charged, which will in part be mitigated by brought forward under-spends in 2013/14. During the course of next year, a further dialogue is required about the childcare services that can be charged to the Dedicated Schools Grant to develop a joint commissioning approach to save a further £11m in 2015/16."

Head of the list is Children's Centres at £25.3M. In its talks with Schools Forum, the Council claims to have entered into a new era of honesty, but then shoots itself in the foot with the Green Paper claiming expenditure which HMG expects to be funded from the Early Intervention Funding is paid for from "General Funds"

To quote the head of Education Finance "The Early Intervention Grand has ended". His failure to then go on to explain that it has been replaced by Early Intervention Funding delivered to the council through the Business Rate Retention Scheme does not bode well for the establishment of a new era of honesty.