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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.