Government must invest in children’s & youth services

Leading children’s charities and local councils have called on the Government to urgently close the funding gap facing children and young people’s services as new research reveals a sharp rise in families reaching “crisis point”.

An open letter signed by five major organisations warns that children’s social care is being pushed to breaking point, with a £2bn funding gap expected to open by 2020. It urges ministers to “step up” and use the Autumn Budget to invest in vital services in order to save youngsters from serious harm.

The signatories, which include Barnardo’s, Action for Children and the Local Government Association (LGA), state that between them they have “spent years warning successive governments that a failure to invest in these vital services will have long term consequences” for the UK’s children and families.

The letter, comes as a report by three leading children’s charities reveals “crippling” central government cuts have left councils with no option but to close services designed to detect early signs of child neglect and abuse – forcing them to direct to a “crisis” fire-fighting model.

Demand for crisis support for children has risen sharply as council spending on services that are designed to spot signs of neglect and abuse early has fallen by 40 per cent between 2010/11 and 2015/16, the report shows. Central government funding for children and young people’s services has seen a real terms decrease of £2.4bn in that period, while local authority allocations for these services has fallen by £1.6bn.

At the same time, there has been a 108 per cent increase in child protection investigations, as demand for council help soars.

The research, from The Children’s Society, Action for Children and the National Children’s Bureau, also reveals stark geographical discrepancies, with the most deprived councils in England having cut spending on children’s services by almost a quarter (23 per cent) – six times as much as the least deprived councils.

The open letter to ministers reads:

“Children’s social care is being pushed to breaking point, with an unprecedented surge in demand leaving services across the public, voluntary and community sector struggling to cope.

“We believe that all children deserve the chance of a bright future. That’s why we are uniting today to urge the Government to use the Autumn Budget to close the funding gap facing children’s services, which will reach at least £2bn by 2020.”

It states that the number of children needing child protection plans has nearly doubled over the past decade, and last year saw the largest annual increase in children in care since 2013. The organisations also highlight that local authorities overspent on children’s services by £365m in 2014/15 just to keep children safe, and a huge £605m the following year.

The letter adds:

“Our children and young people deserve better than the gradual decline of services – particularly those services that help children early – that have been shown to make a real difference to their lives”

“Councils and the voluntary sector are committed to getting the best for every child. Now we need the same commitment from our government, starting with urgent action through the Budget to give local services the resources they need to help children and families thrive.”

The number of young people subject to child protection enquires increased by 140 per cent – to 170,000 – in the past decade, according to research by the LGA earlier this year.

A separate study more recently revealed that benefit cuts and increased levels of poverty across the UK were the primary cause for this “unprecedented surge” in demand for children’s services, while a lack of resources to provide universal services like children’s centres and youth clubs also played a significant part.

 

 

Archbishop John Sentamu criticises UK food poverty

John Sentamu

Archbishop John Sentamu in a speech at General Synod has called for “more equitable, more caring world” and questioned the effects of government’s welfare reforms:

In a long and often angry address to the Church of England general synod on Tuesday, John Sentamu said static salaries and rising prices had left nine million people living below the breadline at a time when the chief executives of the UK’s 100 biggest companies were earning on average £4.3m – 160 times the average national wage.

Sentamu, who chairs the Living Wage Commission, said politicians needed to stop referring to “hard-working” families and recognise that they were instead “hard-pressed” families struggling to survive despite their best efforts.

“Once upon a time you couldn’t really be living in poverty if you had a regular income,” he said. “You could find yourself on a low income, yes. But that is not longer so. You can be in work and still live in poverty.”

Reports of malnutrition and food poverty in Yorkshire “disgrace us all, leaving a dark stain on our consciences”, he said. “How can it be that last year more than 27,000 people were diagnosed as suffering from malnutrition in Leeds – not Lesotho, not Liberia, not Lusaka but Leeds?”

The effects of the government’s welfare reforms, Sentamu said, were “beginning to bite – with reductions in housing benefit for so-called under-occupation of social housing, the cap on benefits for workless householders and single parents, and the gradual replacement of the disability living allowance with a personal independence payment”.

“This is the new reality,” he said, “Food banks aren’t going to go away any time soon. Prices are rising more than three times faster than wages. This has been going on for 10 years now. And for people slipping into poverty, the reality is much harsher.”

If governments were powerless to do much more than “tinker” with the current economic trends, he added, the church would find itself doing even more.

Reflecting on Christianity’s long commitment to fighting poverty – from Saint Francis of Assisi to John Wesley, and from Gustavo Gutiérrez, the Peruvian priest and father of liberation theology, to the current pope – Sentamu said the Church of England had once again found itself compelled to speak up for the poor, and urged Anglicans to follow the example of the architects of the welfare state.

“They had a clear vision as to how things could be different,” he said. “In part, they were also tapping into the spirit of the immediate postwar years in which there was a great hunger to rebuild a more equitable, more caring world. It is that vision which we need to recapture today, but remoulded in a way which is realistic for the circumstances we face now.”

Poverty, the archbishop concluded, was “costly, wasteful and indeed very risky”. He said: “We in the church must make the argument that losing human potential at a time when we need all the capacity we can gather is hugely wasteful; that paying people below the level required for subsistence fractures the social contract and insurance, and that this is risky.”

The World’s 85 Richest People Have as Much Money as the World’s Poorest 3.5 Billion

India - Agricultural Scale Up - Samarpan

You could read that headline every day for the rest of your life, and it’d probably never fully sink in.

Here are some truly staggering numbers from Oxfam, who released a study on the world’s income disparity that is absolutely eye-popping.  Just a run down of the bullet points is incredible:

  • Nearly 50 percent of the world’s wealth is owned by one percent of the world’s population.
  • The richest one percent of people in the world are worth about $110 trillion—65 times the sum total of wealth owned by the world’s poorest fifty percent.
  • 7 in 10 people live in countries where income equality has decreased over the past thirty years.
  • The total wealth of the world’s poorest 3.5 billion equals the wealth of the richest 85 individuals.

Poverty in schools

Unison-logo

UNISON has published the results of a survey of 3,000 school support staff. Key findings include:

  • 87% say children are coming to school tired
  • 85% say children are coming to school hungry
  • 80% see children coming to school without proper uniforms or in worn out clothes
  • 73% believe that poverty has a negative impact on the education of the children in their school
  • 57% see the children in their school in poor physical health
  • 55% believe that some children at their school appear to be suffering mental health issues as a result of rising poverty levels
  • 55% have seen an increase in the number of children who rely on breakfast clubs in this school year

Fair and Square: From the Children’s Society

Children's Society - Fair & Square

Your campaigning works – the government’s own advisors have today recognised that 700,000 children from poor working families aren’t allowed free school meals and cannot afford to pay for them. They say these children are sometimes going hungry and things should change.

The Government has still not promised to change things, but it has promised to ‘investigate’. Now is the time for us to put pressure on the government to make them listen to their own advisors and ensure that ALL children in poverty receive Free School Meals.

Email your MP now to ask them to speak up.

http://action.childrenssociety.org.uk/fairandsquare

With changes to the benefits system coming in the autumn, the government has to make a decision soon. With the end of term approaching, parents will be starting to worry about how to pay for food when school starts again.

Now’s the time to speak up.

Best Wishes,

Gavin Thomson
Campaigns Team
The Children’s Society

‘The Church in Action’ – latest research report from Church Urban Fund

Church Urban Fund’s latest research report The Church in Action: a national survey of church-led social action quantifies the scale of Anglican church-led social action in England, explores the types of activities that parishes run and identifies the social needs they help to address.

Our findings show that thousands of parish churches around the country play an active role in their local community, running lunch clubs for older people, after school clubs for children living in deprived areas or food banks for parents desperately trying to feed their families.

These activities, and many others like them, are signs of parish churches quietly serving disadvantaged or vulnerable members of their community.

Councillor in attack on food bank

Councillor Chris Steward

A senior York politician has sparked a furious row by saying there is no real poverty in Britain and people should not donate to food banks.

Chris Steward, a Conservative councillor, said living standards had surged, that there was no need for food banks, that they were an insult to starving people around the world, and that donating to them allowed recipients to spend more money on alcohol and cigarettes.

But his comments have been condemned by political opponents and The Trussell Trust, which runs 275 banks nationwide.  Chris Mould, the charity’s executive chairman, said more than 10,000 professionals nationwide were referring people to food banks and said: “He is making totally inappropriate assertions which I challenge him to back up with proper evidence.”

Coun Steward said on twitter that it insulted those in poverty to claim it existed in the UK. Asked to elaborate, he said Britain had relative poverty, like every country, but not absolute poverty.

He said:

“We have lots of poor people, but living standards have surged over the years. There is certainly no need for food banks; no-one in the UK is starving and I think food banks insult the one billion in the world that go to bed hungry every day and ignore the fact a child dies of hunger every three seconds.”

“The fact some give food to food banks, merely enables people who can’t budget (an issue where schools should do much more and I have said the council should) or don’t want to, to have more money to spend on alcohol, cigarettes etc.”

Mr Mould said Coun Steward was “poorly informed” and said living standards for people on low incomes had declined in recent years, with heating costs rising by 65 per cent in five years and the cost of basic food rising by’ 35 per cent. He said it was stereotyping to say those on low incomes were using money unwisely, saying there were many reasons why people found themselves in crisis.

Chris Mould said:

“He says there is no need for food banks; I am astonished by his assertion. What does he know? Where is his evidence? More than 10,000 front-line professionals, week in week out, are referring people they are trying to help to food banks.  They are seeing people from Cornwall to Inverness, York to Liverpool, and in increasing numbers they are referring people to food banks.  I am talking from an evidence-base of 10,000 care professionals who would argue with him. It is astonishing he would make an assertion like that.”

food bank

Mr Mould said nobody suggested people should not be distressed or outraged by unnecessary hunger elsewhere in the world, but said:

“It is clear that people in the UK who we meet have been going without meals when they arrive at food banks. They are going to bed hungry too. We are one of the richest countries in the world, but one of the most unequal in terms of income distribution in Europe.”

I found it amazing in this period of recession where most weeks there are major news articles on increases in poverty in the UK that a local politician would go as far to state there is no need for food banks.  As someone who has worked with young people and families for nearly a decade, I’ve helped them access food banks many times – they are incredibly valuable local tools.

What do you think?  Was Councillor Steward right to say we don’t need food banks?

———————– UPDATE ———————–

The York Press are now reporting that:

The York councillor who sparked an angry backlash by saying food banks were not needed has said he will visit one to see how they work.

Chris Steward, chairman of York Conservatives and councillor for Rural West York, made the offer after he came under fire for comments revealed in The Press on Thursday. Coun Steward claimed there was no real poverty in the UK.

He has since said on twitter that he would be happy to visit a food bank to work a shift.

York Labour councillor Dafydd Williams also yesterday invited Coun Steward to visit the York food bank at Gateway Church in Acomb, and called the councillor’s comments “ill-informed”. Coun Steward declined to add to his comments on twitter when contacted by The Press.