Budget not enough to undo the damage

Guest blog by Ruth Cadbury MP

I want to focus on what this government has done to the children in these families and particularly those who need additional help. The Chancellor hardly mentioned children in his speech. What we need is a budget that works for them, not a government which is driving an economy that means their parent’s real pay is declining, creating a housing crisis that forces their parents to pay rent almost equivalent to their take-home pay and a work culture that means the only jobs their parents can get have zero-hours contracts so they never know how much is coming in every month.

And no child in this country needs a government that makes a political choice to respond to the worldwide financial crisis by implementing, then continuing with politically-driven Austerity where the whole burden falls on the poor and the rich get let off scot free. Austerity that means our public services continue to struggle with less money and more pressures.

Austerity isn’t coming to an end

Let me cover some examples:

The Local Government Association says government cuts mean councils have been forced to cut services, including the very services that are designed to help children and families before problems start.
– children’s centres,
– advice information & support
– youth services
And another £1.3bn is planned to councils next year. Hounslow Council has lost 80% of its Government grants in the last 8 years, meaning a 40% loss of total real income. Another £27m of cuts to find over the next 3 years, with 5.5m to take from Education and early intervention.

I heard nothing to help the growing number of children on child protection plans, which have surged 84%, or be enough to reopen the youth centres that do such a great job identifying and supporting vulnerable youngsters.

Token gesture to schools

The token gesture to schools won’t reverse the cuts decisions heads have had to make that cut teaching assistants, family welfare advisers, counselling and mental health specialists.

On schools I’m grateful to Cllr Tom Bruce, Hounslow’s lead member for Children & Education who said to me “The Government tell us that there is more money in schools than ever before, but if you ask the heads, the teachers, the pupils, the parents and the governors, that is simply not the reality. The Chancellor’s token gesture to schools won’t reverse the cuts decisions heads have had to make that cut teaching assistants, family welfare advisers, counselling and mental health specialists“.

And on top of that, the Government grant funding for children with additional educational need is not enough for the growing number of those children. Schools have had to cut specialists that provide early interventions and the NHS has cut school nurses. Between them they identify children at risk and families in crisis and support them.

I agree with the hon member for Birkenhead who rightly said that the burden of Austerity has fallen on those families with children needing to claim benefit, driving them to destitution and some of the symptoms of that extreme poverty. Teachers having to buy shoes, coats and warm clothes for children whose parents can’t afford to buy them.

Punishment for being poor

Universal Credit was rolled out in Hounslow two and a half years ago – in the first wave to affect families with children – and almost immediately, as we predicted, pressure on the food-back shot up and evictions from private tenancies led to queues of homeless families many of whom have had to take temporary accommodation, often such a distance away that they are too far from work, school and community.

Universal Credit is claimed both by families with no adult in work because of disability and who are losing the benefit to cover the extra costs they incur, but also working families, who in West London would starve without Universal Credit working properly. That’s because rents are c£1200 per month and take-home pay can hover around £1500, a lot less for a parent on the national minimum wage.

Universal Credit is leaving families in poverty for three reasons
– it’s underfunded
– Its chaotic
– And punishment for being poor is built into its design

Today’s increases in work allowances only replace the cuts that were made previously

Mental health – why wait for a crisis?

The Chancellor’s £2bn for Mental Health is half what’s needed and it’s to fund a new crisis Mental Health service – In A&E ambulances, and a hotline. BUT WHY WAIT FOR A CRISIS?!

What help is that crisis service to the young person with autism in my constituency who’s had to wait years to even get a referral, then waited 15 months for their first CAMHS assessment that was then cancelled by text with no follow-up. That child and their parents shouldn’t have to be grateful for a crisis service – by then too much damage has been done to their development, their education and their mental health.

There was nothing in the Chancellor’s speech about the potentially devastating impact that Brexit will have on the economy and so on our children’s future, which is surprising given that the Treasury forecasts show that all versions of Brexit will leave the UK with an economy worse off and declining tax receipts.

This government is overseeing growing inequality

This government is overseeing growing inequality yet all research shows that economies with more equal distribution of income grow stronger, more evenly, and everyone benefits when the benefits of a strong economy are shared fairly. Today’s UK children face a bleak adulthood growing up in a Britain on its own, outside the EU and the prosperity that membership has given this country to date. In conclusion Mr Speaker – children in primary school now were born and have grown up only experiencing austerity and from today’s budget will continue to do so for years to come.

Ruth Cadbury is the MP for Brentford & Isleworth