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Unless your parents are wealthy, today is not the time to be a child in Britain. All children deserve to feel safe and secure, be fed and clothed, have adequate housing and receive a good education. Not much to ask you might think, but certainly too much for the ConDems to deliver.

Children living in poor conditions in Stetchford, Birmingham, UK

The Spending Review contained an avalanche of cuts which affect children and children’s services and which will impact upon children’s long term life chances.

Cuts in housing benefit rates, huge reductions in the social housing budget and increases in the rents of social housing to 80% of market rates will mean that children are forced to move from their established networks of friends and relatives, and change schools disrupting their education, as their parents have to find cheaper education.

The end of long term tenancy arrangements for new council housing tenants undermines the stability and security children need to feel within their home and communities.

The removal of child benefit will impact more significantly upon families with disabled children whose care needs are greater. The reduction of the childcare element in working families’ tax credit will also have greater effect upon those with disabled children needing higher cost, specialised child care. There will inevitably be a pressure on parents receiving low wages to use cheaper, less regulated and lower standard child care when they receive less assistance with the cost.

Educational maintenance grants of £30 a week awarded to poorer children have been a real factor in helping children to stay on at school. The ConDems have abolished these grants ,so taking away the option of remaining at school until 18 from the most disadvantaged children and condemning them to a life of unfulfilled potential.

The end of the EMA, combined with the likely rises in university fees to £8,000 to £10,000 a year and the end of the school building programme, shows the government’s contempt for the education of working class children. Indeed, the increase in apprenticeships funding is an indication of the extent of the ambition they have for our kids.

Children will pay the price for being part of a large family as there will be a limit on benefit levels per household regardless of the number of children. There can be no justification for why one child should have less money for food, heating and clothing than another, merely because they have more siblings. In the Victorian novel Jude the Obscure the children of a poverty stricken family hang themselves and leave a note reading ‘because we are too many’. A situation Cameron and Clegg seem happy to return to.

The Department of Education’s non-school budget has been cut by 12%. This affects services to the most vulnerable children , including those in need of protection or being looked after and disabled children. Some centrally directed programmes will end but there are no details yet as to which ones.

Anyone working in children’s services knows that a key factor in every tragic child death from Maria Colwell to Tyra Henry, Jasmine Beckford and Peter Connolly has been the high number of high risk cases being held by social workers. The cuts in local authority budgets can only increase those caseloads. There will be a decimation of the support services for drug and alcohol using parents, women escaping domestic violence and parents with learning difficulties . These services are crucial in helping parents to keep the care of their children and their loss will lead to more children being placed at risk and being removed into care.

Research undertaken by Loughborough University found that the foster care budget needs to be increased by £580 million over the next 5 years to meet the needs of increasing numbers of looked after children. It is clear the fostering budget will not increase and is likely to be cut, leading to children having less money spent on their care and foster carers becoming harder to recruit. There is already anecdotal evidence that local authorities are having to place more children within homes than foster carers are approved to care for.

Children will wait even longer for care proceedings to be heard as court budgets are cut. For a child any delay is detrimental. A period of a few months is a significant part of a small child’s life as they await decisions about their future placement and stability.

Most parents also work, but being an unemployed parent can seem an isolating experience. As finances and services are hit ,there is an increase in worry and stress. This can lead to family breakdowns and increasing isolation.

However, parents are part of collective relationships in every sphere of their lives from meeting in the school playground, at the Sure Start centre, using the library or community centre groups. It is in these social relationships that the campaign against the cuts can be built.

Tagged under: Austerity
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