Early child support spending in Wigan falls by £17.5m following Government cuts

Wigan Council axed spending on early support for children by £17.5m over the last decade, according to a report.

Figures show the authority was the third worst-hit across the country for austerity.

A coalition of charities – The Children’s Society, Action for Children, Barnardo’s, National Children’s Bureau and NSPCC – says councils have struggled with the impact of funding cuts.

Research by Pro Bono Economics found spending on early intervention support – which prevents children from coming to harm – was around £13.2m in Wigan in 2020-21.

A coalition of charities says councils have struggled with the impact of funding cuts, with many of the poorest areas hardest hit

However, this was down 64 per cent since 2010-11 in real terms – effectively a fall of £17.5m in today's money. It meant a real terms drop from £276 per child to £102.

Investment in early support services – which range from children’s centres and youth clubs, to targeted support with issues like drug and alcohol misuse – halved from £3.8bn to £1.9bn across England.

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Mark Russell, chief executive at The Children’s Society, said: “Young people have told us they felt they needed to get hurt or harm someone in order be taken seriously.

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“It’s a big concern that children in deprived areas, where needs may be greatest, are often among those least likely to get help before problems spiral out of control.”

Researchers found spending on crisis and late intervention services rose from £6bn to £8.2bn across England. In Wigan, this went from £33.4m to £51.5m.

Colette Dutton, the council’s director for children’s services, said: “Together with voluntary, community groups, our schools and health colleagues, we have remained committed to providing early intervention, despite budget cuts of over £150m since 2010.

“According to the Institute of Fiscal Studies, Wigan was the third worst affected council as a result of austerity, which has resulted in less money to spend in areas such as early intervention and we recognise, in line with this report, that had greater investment in this area been possible, there would have been less demand for the type of crisis support we provide.

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“Saying this, working alongside our partners, Wigan Council remains fully committed to early intervention and to the rollout of family hubs in the borough, although Wigan is yet to benefit from any additional funding for the provision of family hubs which have been afforded to many other local authorities across England already.”