Earlier this week, the Government set out spending measures in its spring Budget, which contained a number of commitments targeted specifically at children and young people:
The Government has announced that £4.1 billion will be made available by 2027-2028 to deliver 30 hours of free childcare for eligible working parents of children aged from 9 months to 3 years old in England.
It also committed to providing £204 million in 2023-24 from September, to increase the funding rate for the existing childcare offers and will proceed with changing staff-to-child ratios from 1:4 to 1:5 for two-year-olds to align with Scotland and comparable countries and will consult on further measures to improve flexibility for providers.
In addition, the Government will introduce start-up grants for new childminders and will be looking to make better use of schools to provide wrap-around childcare for children, so that all children can access 8am-6pm childcare provision in their local area.
The cost of childcare was one of the two biggest issues parents spoke to me about as part of my independent Family Review last year – and we know that getting the early years right gives children the best outcomes later in life, so this commitment by Government is an important step.
To support young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities into employment, the Department for Education will invest an additional £3 million over the next two years to pilot an expansion of its Supported Internships programme. This will help young people entitled to Special Educational Needs (SEND) support who do not currently have an Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP) make the transition into adult life.
The Government has also committed to extending the Alternative Provision Specialist Taskforce pilot, which will continue to provide support to vulnerable children in alternative provision settings, to improve their engagement with education (including attendance, behaviour and wellbeing) and reduce their vulnerability to serious violence.
This is especially important, given recent attendance data showing an alarming jump in school absence since before the pandemic, to support those who are most at risk of dropping out of education.
Alongside the Spring Budget the Government has set out its plan for a Health and Disability White Paper. Although this will focus on reforms for adults, the Children’s Commissioner is hopeful that attention will also be paid to children with disabilities and will be working hard to ensure their voices are included at the heart of policymaking.
The Government has also committed to £10 million for a grant fund for suicide prevention VCSE organisations in England across 2023-24 to 2024-25 to support people experiencing suicidal thoughts or approaching a mental health crisis.