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£500 million expansion of support for children and families

Rishi Sunak meets parents and their young children
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#SpendingReview – Hundreds of thousands of families will benefit from a £500 million investment in families and early years support to ensure children get the best start in life, the Chancellor is expected to announce next week.

  • Chancellor expected to announce £500 million investment package to transform support for families at next week’s Budget and Spending Review.
  • Funding will include more than £80 million for Family Hubs, £100 million to support the mental health of new and expectant parents and £120 million investment towards other comprehensive family support programmes.
  • 300,000 of the most vulnerable families in society will be supported with an extra £200m boost to the government’s flagship Supporting Families Programme which supports families through complex issues that could lead to family breakdown.

At Wednesday’s Budget and Spending Review, Rishi Sunak will announce a massive investment boost to Family Hubs – where families can go to access the services they need in one place. Breastfeeding advice and parent-infant mental health services will also see an annual funding boost and more money will go towards programmes which support parents to build positive relationships with their children.

The new funding will implement recommendations set out in the Rt Hon Andrea Leadsom MP’s recent Early Years Healthy Development Review, which found that the first 1001 days of a child’s life are critical to lay the building blocks for lifelong emotional and physical health. The report called for action to ensure that families have access to the services they need to thrive.

Rishi Sunak 100x100The Chancellor Rishi Sunak said:

“I passionately believe that we have a duty to give young families and their children the best possible start in life.

“We know that the first thousand and one days of a child’s life are some of the most important in their development – which is why I’m thrilled that this investment will guarantee that thousands of families across England are given support to lead healthy and happy lives.”

Nick Brook, deputy general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said:

“This money is welcome and post-16 training and skills for employment is important. But the learning and experiences children and young people have had earlier in their lives, to help them get to that point, is also important. We need to see investment from Treasury next week into education the whole way through.”

Commenting on plans also announced for a network of ‘family hubs’ in England to support young families, Mr Brook said:

“Investment in the early years and family support is clearly welcome. A joined up approach, bringing different services together in one place for young children and their families is the right approach to take. This must now be the start of long-term commitment to high quality early support.”

Anna Feuchtwang, Chief Executive of the National Children’s Bureau, said:

“Wednesday’s Spending Review is a turning point for children and families. Instead of going back to how things were, this is our chance to look to the future – a future where every child feels safe, secure and supported. The Treasury’s announcement over the weekend of £500 million for children and families provides a glimmer of hope that we are embarking on that new direction.

“Last week, the children’s sector provided a blueprint for the government to Build Back Childhood. We called for a major increase for the Supporting Families programme, investment in family hubs, and funding for the government’s vision for the best start for life. The Treasury has listened and we applaud them for this. This new investment will undoubtably make a difference to many families.

“But the challenge of building back childhood demands a joined-up approach to the needs of babies, children and young people from conception to age 25. Creating lasting change must mean sustained improvement in local authority budgets to ensure existing legal entitlements can be met and children’s rights upheld. Investment is still urgently needed in health visiting, childcare and early education, children’s social care, and support for disabled children.

“Funding educational catch-up programmes without a wider investment in building back childhood will not deliver value for money or deliver the recovery in outcomes the Government seeks. Many children have faced great adversity during the pandemic, including increases in domestic violence, bereavement, and social isolation. Meeting these needs earlier, by expanding access to mental health support teams and early support hubs, provides a ready-made approach.

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“And while money for public services is very welcome and necessary, the rising cost of living, coupled with the cut in Universal Credit, directly undermines this investment. Poverty is the enemy of opportunity. Children growing up in deprivation are already far behind their wealthier peers before they start school and even further behind when they leave. As well as the human cost, this inequality costs the Treasury billions in additional spending on public services. The Chancellor must respond to rising insecurity, debt, homelessness and hunger by re-instating the £20 increase to Universal Credit.

“NCB believes the announcement of £500 million for children and families marks a clear intention to invest in the future which we welcome. All eyes are now on Wednesday’s announcement to see if the Chancellor can continue the journey he has started, and truly deliver the strategic approach that is needed to Build Back Childhood.”

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Leading think tank, The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), has welcomed the announcement that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will invest 500m in early years support, Gavin Rice, Head of the CSJ’s Work and Welfare Policy unit, said:

“Stronger families are at the heart of a stronger society, and it’s fantastic to see the Chancellor investing £500 million in 75 new family hubs. Family hubs, a policy idea pioneered by the Centre for Social Justice, will provide vital support, direction and a one-stop-shop for new families as we recover from the pandemic.”

The CSJ played a key role, in partnership with the Fabian Society, providing the secretariat for the Early Years Commission, whose work has informed the new policy. 

Over nine months, the Early Years Commission heard from organisations and individuals committed to giving every child the best start in life and pushing for a change in early years policy. 

This families and early years package includes £100 million for bespoke mental health support for new and expectant parents, with funding going towards staff training and interventions to strengthen and nurture the relationship between parent and child which is critical to improving health outcomes for babies and the mental health of parents.

Around £80 million will be invested in creating a new network of Family Hubs in 75 Local Authorities across England, a one-stop-shop where families can go to access the service they need in one place -such as the Government’s ‘Start for Life’ offer, parenting programmes, breastfeeding advice and mental health support.

£120 million will be provided to expand core services which ensure that children have the best start in life. This includes £50 million for parenting programmes to help parents and carers build positive relationships with their children – with evidence from the British Medical Association emphasising the importance of supporting and coaching parents to strengthen family bonds.

£10 million will go towards proactively communicating clear information about the ‘Start for Life’ offer which details trusted NHS help and advice during pregnancy, birth and parenthood, and £50 million towards specialist breastfeeding support services including antenatal breastfeeding classes and one-to-one specialist support. This builds on best practice in areas such as Tower Hamlets which now has the highest breastfeeding rates at 6-8 weeks in England.

To free up the capacity of health visitors, a further £10 million will also be made available for Local Authorities to trial and test new and innovative recruitment models to train up more staff with specialisms in mental health and breastfeeding support to ensure families are given the high-quality support they need.

Nursery staff will also be able to access more high-quality training funded by a separate £153 million investment announced as part of the £1.4 billion education recovery package in Summer 2021.

Work will also continue on digitising babies’ details and information about their growth and development, commonly known as the ‘Red Book’, to make it easier to ensure this vital information is protected and shared with medical staff. 

To support up to 300,000 of the most vulnerable families in society, an additional £200 million will be invested in the government’s flagship Supporting Families Programme which assigns families with a dedicated key worker to support them through complex issues that could lead to family breakdown.

This investment builds on the Government’s continued investment in free childcare hours to support families with their childcare costs, totaling around £3.6 billion in 20-21.

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