The national evaluation of the children’s fund reported in March 2006 and produced separate reports on five distinct groups of vulnerable children. Those groups of children were disabled, refugee and asylum seeker, black and minority ethnic, Gypsy Traveller and those at risk of committing crime and antisocial behaviour. The report showed that the children’s fund was facilitating good progress in addressing the considerable scale and complexity of the needs faced by children in those most vulnerable groups.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that response. The children’s fund in Northamptonshire is little known, but it has done outstanding work, particularly in tackling truancy and meeting the needs of minority children. Can my right hon. Friend tell me whether that funding stream will be continued, and whether it will continue to be ring-fenced for early intervention so that it can maintain the good work it is doing already?
I understand why my hon. Friend asks that question. As she knows, the children’s fund goes to children’s fund partnerships in about 100 local authorities. In the remaining 50 authorities, the fund is already pooled in the local area agreement of local authorities and their partners. Although the funding will continue, from 2008 it will be pooled in local area agreements in all local authorities, but I reassure my hon. Friend that I want to ensure that it remains identifiable as a distinct funding stream so that expenditure on important preventive services, in which the voluntary and community sectors have a particular role to play, will still be transparent. If people are concerned about the way the money is being spent locally, they can challenge it.