‘It’s time for the government to place children at the forefront’ says children’s charity 

Charity The Children’s Society has declared the 2023 Autumn Statement ‘misses a crucial opportunity to invest in the future of children’. 

The Autumn Statement was announced yesterday (22 November) by Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt.  

Some key points from the statement include: 

  • The main rate of national insurance will go down from 12% to 10% from January 
  • Universal credit will rise by 6.7% 
  • Claimants in England and Wales deemed able to work who refuse to seek employment to lose access to their benefits and extras like free prescriptions 
  • Local Housing Allowance rates are to be unfrozen and increased to 30% of local rents from April 
  • National Living Wage is to increase from £10.42 to £11.44 an hour from April 

Responding to the 2023 Autumn Statement, Mark Russell, chief executive at The Children’s Society, said:  “The chancellor’s decisions to increase benefits in line with inflation and unfreeze Local Housing Allowances offers a lifeline for struggling families across the UK. This move is a step in the right direction but falls far short of addressing the broader challenges facing our nation’s children.   

“This government has consistently overlooked the needs of children in their policy-making. The absence of increased funding for children’s services is a glaring omission and we are deeply troubled by the implications of the chancellor’s proposal to bring in stricter conditions within our social security system.  

“Increased investment in employment support is welcome but the majority of children living in poverty – three quarters, in fact – come from households where at least one parent or carer is already employed.   

“The consequences of this are evident: a troubling rise in child poverty, a growing mental health crisis among our youth, and unacceptable delays in providing essential support services. This Autumn Statement, like its predecessors, misses a crucial opportunity to invest in the future of children, especially those who have faced challenging beginnings.   

“Our call to action is clear: It’s time for the government to place children at the forefront of its agenda. This includes a dedicated effort to eradicate child poverty and a significant investment in early intervention services. The need for change is urgent – our children deserve a secure and fulfilling childhood, and they cannot wait any longer for these necessary reforms.” 

The chancellor has also announced a £50 million pilot to “stimulate” apprenticeship training in engineering and other growth sectors.  

Jeremy Hunt revealed plans for a two-year ‘apprenticeship growth sector pilot’ in his autumn statement, but no policy details have yet been released. 

Dani Payne, Social Market Foundation senior researcher, said: “Given the chancellor’s ambition to build a world-class education and skills system, it is disappointing to see core school spending per pupil being held flat in real terms, and little else announced to support our young people. 

“The announcement of modest additional funding for apprenticeships is welcome, however it is unlikely that what the sector really needs is a new pilot scheme, as opposed to a whole-sale reform to bring together our post-secondary education systems, encourage growth in technical education and tackle the unproductive competition between HE and FE that leaves both sectors fighting for pupils and funding. 

“If the government is to truly grow the supply side of the economy, human capital and skills must be at the forefront of our plan for growth and schools, addressing funding and staffing crises to deliver the next generation of skilled young workers and help those already in work to upskill and retrain.” 

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