The first 100 days of government set the direction and ambition of any new administration. They can also set the tone of their relationship with local authorities and in turn, the children and families they support.
At The Children’s Society, we have clear and specific recommendations for government to improve the services children and families receive. These range from ensuring the vital first contact is made with families at the start of a child’s life to ensuring there is always a safety net for those families and young people with nowhere else to turn.
Starting from the moment a child is born we want to see live birth data shared routinely with all children’s centres so families know about the vital support available in the first years of their child’s life. Our recent findings show that of those local authorities currently struggling to share live birth data with their children’s centres 58 per cent said that this was due to the information not being shared by local health services. This then prevents many families accessing their local centre. Research from The Children’s Society found that four in 10 families not accessing their centre did not know it existed. We are calling for a national solution to this issue, which affects almost half of local authorities across the country. This crucial change is the first step to ensuring early intervention works for families.
Early intervention is vital and working alongside other leading children’s charities we are calling on the new government of 2015 to ensure it is at the heart of its strategy for children. However we all recognise that sometimes families fall into difficulty, hit a crisis that they cannot overcome and need support to help them back onto an even keel. Ensuring families and children are protected during times of crisis is a duty of any new government.
One of the first actions we want to see from a new administration is a reversal of this government’s plans to abolish the local welfare assistance grant to local authorities. The £170m funding allocation means local authorities can provide a vital lifeline to families on the edge. These families could be fleeing domestic violence or have no money for fuel or food for their children. We are calling on the government to reverse their decision to abolish this last line of support for many families. Without these schemes, families would have to choose between going without basic essentials to keep their family safe and healthy or turning to high cost credit or pay day loans, plunging them into a debt trap.
These two steps could be implemented quickly by any incoming government and would make a real difference to the lives of the children and families we support every day.