09/10/2011 19:57 BST | Updated 09/12/2011 05:12 GMT

Government Cuts Could Store up Problems for the Future If Vital Children's Services Aren't Protected

Government spending cuts mean making tough decisions and when it comes to what help for vulnerable children should stay and what should go, this is an unenviable task.

But Barnardo's has found that these cuts are putting a stranglehold on grassroots services that help prevent vulnerable children and families from getting into difficulties - services that we know are key to turning lives around and making sure we don't store up problems for society in the future.

Where budget decisions were needed, local authorities have had to prioritise funding for those services which help children in immediate danger of abuse and harm, such as child protection at the expense of more preventative, early intervention such as children's centres, drop-in centres or pupil support.

A worrying 67 per cent of Barnardo's services that have been hit hardest by local authority cuts have been those which provide family support or early intervention for children in difficulty.

Some families now have to wait until their problems are more serious before getting the help they need and a loss of skilled and experienced workers, who play an integral role as the eyes and ears of the communities they work in, mean some vulnerable children are slipping through the net.

Where services have received a partial cut, we are looking for alternative ways to keep what is often a lifeline to children going by recruiting volunteers, sharing buildings with other community projects, and pursuing alternative funding streams such as the Big Lottery and European Social Fund. We are also taking part in pilots to trial 'payment by results' in children's centres and using local fundraising as a way to boost morale of staff, children and families facing cuts by getting them involved with keeping their service going.

But these measures only paper over the cracks. Whilst the coalition government has been keen to promote the concept of early intervention with the Graham Allen review, they seemingly do not practise what they preach. We are deeply concerned about the unintended knock on effects of the cuts to local authorities and on the Government's ability to see this agenda through.

We want the Government as a whole to act now to mitigate the risk of failing to maintain investment in early intervention, which could ultimately lead to greater longer term problems, such as more children being taken into care.

By planning carefully, and involving the voluntary sector in ensuring money given to local authorities for early intervention schemes is spent wisely, local and national government can avoid giving with one hand and taking with the other.