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Future funding fears...
Future funding fears

Children's services officers are on tenterhooks as they wait to see what fate awaits them under the next prime minister Gordon Brown.

Since Labour came to power, children's services have been bolstered by a range of initiatives and funding deals, such as the Quality Protects Programme of 1998 and more recently by Sure Start and the neighbourhood renewal fund.

However, next April some of these will end, leaving a potentially gaping hole in children's service budgets.

For one insider it's a source of real anxiety: 'These sources of funding have made a real difference, but if they're reversed in more frugal times we would have serious concerns because the need hasn't gone away.

'You might argue that greater investment [in children's services] would have resulted in less need, but our experience is that there are still a tremendous number of families who need help.'

All eyes are on the comprehensive spending review, but with this having been put back until the autumn, departments are unclear how to plan their programmes from next spring.

Balance the books

One way in which officers hope Mr Brown will make a difference is encouraging schools to make better use of their surplus budgets.

One insider said schools often keep back part of their annual grants 'for a rainy day' rather than spending them on pupils - then demanding the council coughs up. 'We've got one school with a balance it hasn't spent of around half-a-million, yet that same school is asking us to fund a learning support unit,' the insider said.

With budgets tight, particularly in areas of inclusion, preventative work and learning support, 'we need schools to bear some of the load', he added.

Plight of young carers

The sad plight of some of the country's young carers has once again hit the headlines following the death of 13-year old Deanne Asamoah from a morphine overdose.

Some commentators have pinned the phenomenon on the gap created by the splitting of old-style social services departments into adult and child-specific units.

However, with social services criteria designed to pick up on adults that need professional social care, the reality, according to one insider, is some children are suffering because their parents are choosing not to enlist professional carers.

'It's difficult, but some families prefer not to have outside help. The child or children end up doing more and more until their childhood has been completely eroded,' he said.

To join the children's services Insider email: Views published anonymously.

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