Making children visible in budgets

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child have made it clear that compliance with the UN Convention requires State parties to analyse public expenditure on children and determine that in line with Article 4 of the Convention they are spending the ‘maximum available resources’ to fulfil children's rights. The Committee made recommendations to this effect in their periodic examination of the UK State party in 2002 and 2008 and the Committee's General Comment No. 5 (on the Convention's General Implementation Measures) sets out more detail on what is required in terms of budget analysis and how this activity complements the routine collation by the State party of children's rights indicators.

Transparency in public spending assists governments to ensure that they are effectively using the ‘maximum extent of available resources’ to fulfil children's rights and spending an appropriate proportion of their budgets to this end, and it assists civil society (including children and young people) to hold governments to account.

As well as the routine production of children's budgets which set out what governments are spending on children, governments should ensure that children and young people are enabled to participate in budget setting and monitoring the most effective use of public expenditure, in line with Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Background to children's budgeting in Wales

Save the Children have had a number of discussions with successive Assembly Governments. In 2002 Save the Children commissioned an economist from the London School of Economics to undertake an analysis of public expenditure on children with a view to discerning the impact of devolution on the spending profile. This report was presented to the then Minister for Children, Jane Hutt, resulting in a positive discussion about the need for more transparency on spending on children.

Efforts have been made by the Assembly Government over the intervening period to determine what proportion of their budget is spent on children. Reporting to the UN Committee in 2007, the Welsh Assembly Government included an analysis of the proportion of its budget spent on children (the only nation in the UK to do so) and reported that it planned to do further work to enable a more sophisticated analysis to come forward. Also in 2009, they released this report.

The National Assembly Children and Young People’s Scrutiny Committee carried out an inquiry into children's budgeting between January – March 2009. This report makes recommendations for Wales and can be accessed here.

The Welsh Assembly Government has set up a task and finish group to examine progressing children's budgeting, developing proposals for consideration by Ministers for ways in which improvements in budget forecasting and spend on children and young people, including greater transparency at a Welsh Assembly Government level, can be made. It will also consider issues such as participatory budgeting, pro-poor spending and the link between budget, spend and outcomes for children and young people and consider the National Assembly Children and Young People Scrutiny Committee’s recommendations.

Building on and linked to this work the Assembly Government have established two new projects. The first project is to develop a new resource for use with young people to help to improve their financial knowledge both in community settings and in schools. The second project will build on the first project identifying previous work undertaken on participatory budgeting prior to developing and delivering training. This will then lead to a number of local and national pilot projects involving children and young people in making budget decisions in line with Article 12 of the UNCRC. Additionally the revised guidance on the development of local partnerships and plans will consider how participatory budgeting at a local level may be taken forward, building on the work of the above projects.

Save the Children has recently published a guide for local authorities on children's budgets. It can be accessed here and further information can be found on the Public Services section of this website

UK wide

Save the Children has carried out an analysis of budgets across Wales, England, Northern Ireland and Scotland to assess the extent of pro-poor spending on children at a national level (UK and countries), making comparisons where appropriate between countries of the UK and examining changes since 1997. The study focuses on key sectors including early years, education, social security and social care. The report can be accessed here.