Law and policy collide, how have children’s charities reacted to the budget?

Sue Jenkinson

Very often there is a conflict between law and policy and this can often be seen most clearly around spending decisions Government’s make. This government has a strong family values agenda with marriage and stable families at its heart. Marriage has been opened up to more people (Same Sex Marriage Act 2013) adoption is to be speeded up (Children and Families Act 2014). Last week’s budget has generated the usual amount of newsprint and comment, many papers and websites highlighting how the changes will impact on various groups and family types, who will be better and who will be worse off? While children do not vote and are rarely tax payers they are not a group that the government is overly concerned about alienating, yet austerity and changes to the support offered to family’s will inevitably have a significant impact on children. These spending decisions are policy and have raised series concerns amongst the voluntary sector for many years now. While Mr Osborn trumpeted his intention to put children first, several Charites have commented on the impact of this budget on children including Dr Barnardo’s (www.barnardos.org.uk/) who highlighted the importance of apprenticeships to aspiring disadvantaged children. The failure to ensure good quality placements and the less disadvantaged young people who are taking the majority of these opportunity’s mean that the young people the Barnardo’s supports do not often get revamped apprenticeships. They also commented that the proposed scheme to offer parents parenting vouchers to help improve parenting via parenting classes, and therefore opportunities, for all children required funding and it was not, as yet clear where this funding was going to come from. The NSPCC (www.nspcc.org.uk) was disappointed that funding to support mental health budgets was not ring fenced in order to support of vulnerable children and particularly those who had been the victim of abuse. Ring fencing the funds would allow the charity and other agencies to fill some of the therapeutic gaps the charity has identified in its own research. On the plus side the charity was pleased to note that some of the Libor fines totalling 1.85 million will be channelled through their child protection and family support services enabling them to protect more vulnerable children and support their families. The Children Society (www.childrenssociety.org.uk) statement makes clear that this budget is failing the next generation by not providing resources to tackle child poverty and Child Action Poverty Group, (www.cpag.org.uk) on a similar theme highlighted the inefficiency of increasing all personal tax allowances in targeting child poverty.
All in all this snap shot of some children charities responses to the budget shows how, without resources to back up intention much of the governments agenda regrading child protection and support is falling to the voluntary sector. While we do not hear so much about the ‘big society’ any more it is clear that much of family policy is now implemented through the voluntary sector and it is their comments on the budget that have the most relevance for family law and its implementation.