ChildLinks Issue 3: Children in Disadvantaged Communities

Barnardos. (2003). ChildLinks Issue 3: Children in Disadvantaged Communities.
As ChildLinks goes to print, the 2004 A Public Spending Estimates have been announced and the policies which will be copperfastened in the 2004 Budget are clear The Government has chosen to implement cuts in a manner which will have greatest impact on the weakest and most vulnerable members of our society. For example, the sixteen cuts in social welfare entitlements will have a direct impact on lone parents, the unemployed and those who are in receipt of rent allowances and diet supplements. The Government had alternative choices: for example, they could have chosen to widen the tax base to increase the tax take from corporate tax, capital gains tax, and property tax and used this revenue to protect the most marginalised. For many N.G.O.s in the child and family sector, it is a time of disillusionment and uncertainty. Many N.G.Os, particularly those in receipt of Department of Health funding, have already had to work off reduced budgets in 2003. Given the reality of rising staff costs and the need for N.G.Os to retain competitiveness with the statutory/semistate employers, reduced statutory funding means a reduction in programmes and services. The common message being articulated across Child and Family Services, Community Employment schemes, Family Resource Centres, Youth Services and Educational Projects, is one of severe budgetary pressure and service reduction. In addition, contrary to Government policy as expressed in the White Paper Supporting Voluntary Activity, many Government departments and agencies who were implementing multi-annual funding, have now reverted to annualised funding. This makes strategic planning for N.G.O.s very difficult to implement. This external environment is also very anti-development for N.G.O.s and has the danger of having a repressive effect on service development and expansion. What is the impact of public expenditure retrenchment for disadvantaged communities? Below inflation increases or no increases are effective cuts. And the impact of these cuts will be felt disproportionately in disadvantaged communities. Longer waiting lists for Child and Family Support Services, reduced subsidies for childcare places, reduction in services dependant on Community Employment schemes, will impact directly on the quality of life of people living in disadvantaged communities So how do the N.G.Oss across the child and family support sector respond? At organisational level, many agencies will be involved in finalising their own budgets for 2004 and dealing with difficult resource decisions. At an inter-agency level it is imperative that we proactively respond through the various alliances and sectoral groupings to campaign against the cuts, highlighting the damage which the Government has inflicted on already vulnerable communities and arguing that these services need to receive substantially increased resources in next year's Estimates and Budget. The positive outcomes achieved by the Arts sector, which challenged the 2003 funding cuts with significant success, should offer encouragement to us all. We need, as a sector, to begin to organise now to achieve a change in Government policy next year.