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Chancellor announces funding for children’s homes and secure estate

In a wide-ranging speech, Jeremy Hunt, delivering his Spring Budget announced funding for more children’s home placements and a short-term extension and £500m for the Household Support Fund along with other measures with repercussions for children’s and adults’ social care.

07/03/24

Chancellor announces funding for children’s homes and secure estate

The Chancellor has announced £45 million funding to local authorities to build an additional 200 open children’s home placements, and £120 million to fund the maintenance of the existing secure children’s home estate.

Delivering his Spring Budget statement today (Weds 6th March), Jeremy Hunt said he was helping families “not just with cost of living support but with permanent cuts in taxation,” calling it a “budget for long term growth”.

Other key measures affecting the social work sector include £500m in funding to extend the Household Support Fund (HSF) at current levels for another 6 months, abolishing the £90 charge for debt relief orders, and funding for the NHS productivity plan with £3.4bn investment and an extra £2.5bn to help reduce waiting times.

The initial reaction to the announcement from sector leaders has been generally positive, though many say the measures do not go far enough to ease the challenges of those living in the toughest conditions.

The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) said it was “pleased to see some measures announced in the statement, which for some people will provide welcome financial support.”

“However, BASW strongly contends the Chancellor’s claim that households are struggling any less than when the cost-of-living crisis first hit. With 4 million people currently living in destitution, including 1 million children, the scourge of poverty continues to inflict pain and hardship on too many across the UK.”

The Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) similarly praised the continuation of the Household Support Fund, but called for a “long term national investment to allow us to provide vital early support when and where it’s needed.”

In a statement, John Pearce, ADCS President, welcomed the recognition in the Budget that government needs to address the substantial challenges faced in children’s residential care.

“We are particularly pleased that the government has committed to developing proposals aimed at tackling profiteering in the children’s placements system and to prevent scarce funds being diverted away from vulnerable children, and the public purse, to shareholders.

“The additional investment to upgrade the existing secure children’s home estate and to rebuild two secure children’s homes as well as some additional capital funding for new residential provision and investment for special free schools is welcome. There is an urgent need for government action to ensure there are enough high-quality placements for children in care when and where they are needed, and further substantial funding will be required in the future to enable that.”

Similarly, Dr Jo Casebourne, Chief Executive of Foundations – the What Works Centre for Children and Families, said the funding for social care places is necessary but said that government needed to tackle the problems at their source.

“The £45 million for additional social care places is necessary, but curbing local government need for expensive emergency placements requires a shift towards support for families before problems arise. Channelling resources into targeted, early support to help prevent problems for families which may lead to children going into care, or stop these problems becoming worse, can reduce demand on the social care system and improve child outcomes from mental health to school achievement.

“The £500 million dedicated to children and adult’s social care, announced first in January, is also a significant commitment, but more investment is not a solution in itself: the way this money is spent is critical.”

Leaders in social work with adults have been more muted in their response, however, with many criticising the sidelining of thorny social care issues once again.

Anna Hemmings, joint CEO of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS), said ADASS welcomed £500 million additional Government funding for children and adults social care in February but that it does not go far enough.

“While this sounds a big figure, once shared between 153 councils, the reality is it simply isn’t enough to meet rising costs and growing numbers of adults needing care and support this year. Millions of adults and carers will be disappointed today’s Budget has done nothing to help them.

“This squeeze on social care means directors can’t invest enough in early support for people close to home which prevents them needing hospital or residential care, at a greater cost. Social care needs a long-term, sustainable, fully-funded plan that focuses on enabling everyone to live as healthily and independently as possible, for as long as possible.”

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