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Budget and Spending Review investment welcome but must reach seriously ill children now, says Together for Short Lives

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Baby with mum and brother

Together for Short Lives has welcomed Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s decision to invest in health, social care and education at Budget 2021 and the Spending Review. However, with public services under serious strain, the charity is calling on ministers to ensure money is available to fill the gaps in lifeline children’s palliative care services.

The government’s Budget and Spending Review, announced today (27 October) mean, by 2024/25:

  • the NHS resource budget will rise to over £160 billion, with an additional £2.3 billion to transform diagnostic services and £4.2 billion for 40 new hospitals and 70 hospital upgrades
  • local authority core spending power will increase by an average of 3% in real-terms each year; the government is providing councils with £4.8 billion of new grant funding and expects the referendum threshold for increases in council tax to remain at 2% per year – although no funding is ringfenced for children’s social care
  • £2.6 billion of new funding for new school places for children with special educational needs and disabilities
  • £500 million to transform ‘Start for Life’ and family help services in half of the council areas across England; this will fund a network of Family Hubs, Start for Life services, perinatal mental health support and parenting programmes; it will also expand the Supporting Families programme, providing families with multidisciplinary support
  • total investment to specifically support education recovery to £4.9 billion since academic year 2020-21.

Andy Fletcher, Chief Executive of Together for Short Lives, said:

“I welcome Rishi Sunak’s decision to increase funding available to the NHS, local authorities and education providers. The investment in special school places is also good news. However, amid growing pressure on health and social care, I am concerned that it may not be enough to meet the serious challenges facing our public services. I am also disappointed that the Chancellor has chosen not to ringfence funding for social care for disabled children. Recent research by the Disabled Children’s Partnership shows that the funding gap in disabled children’s health and social care has grown to £2.1 billion, including a £573 million gap in disabled children’s social care services.

“The challenge for minsters is to ensure additional money helps the most seriously ill children and their families. Urgent action is needed to fill the gaps in 24/7 support available from specialist children’s palliative care consultants and nurses in hospitals, children’s hospices and the community. Families exhausted from the pandemic need short break funding to be ringfenced and prioritised. Children’s hospices need a guarantee that their £25million grant from NHS England will continue to help ensure their sustainability for the long-term. Only by meeting the pressing needs of these vulnerable children and families, for whom time is short, can the government truly build back better and level up for everyone in society.”

You can read the government’s 2021 Budget and Spending Review documents here.

You can read our representation to HM Treasury ahead of Budget and Spending Review 2021 here.

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