The Children’s Commissioner for England’s Office has published research carried out by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) into the levels of government spending on children between 2000 and 2020.
The research, commissioned by the Children’s Commissioner ahead of next year’s Spending Review, looks at budget changes affecting children over the last two decades.
The report, ‘Public Spending on Children in England: 2000 to 2020’, shows that levels of government spending on children have been broadly maintained over the last twenty years. Last year, total spending on children from the main government departments which fund services for children – but excluding healthcare where data is limited – was over £120bn or £10,000 per child under 18. Spending per child is 42% higher in real terms than it was in 2000–01, although 10% below its high point of £11,300 in 2010–11.
However, the analysis also reveals a number of deeply concerning trends, with mainstream and acute services, such as 4-16 education and support for children in care, protected at the expense of targeted preventative services.
Almost half of spending on children’s services now goes on 73,000 children in the care system, while the other half has to cover the remaining 11.7 million children in England. Altogether, 72% of children’s services budgets go towards helping families in severe need.
The report shows there has been a significant reorientation of spending in recent years towards statutory help for children in crisis, while overall children’s services spending has been largely frozen since 2009–10. Spending on preventative support, such as Sure Start and young people’s services, has consequently been cut by around 60% in real-terms between 2009–10 and 2016–17.