One Million Reasons for Reform

One Million Reasons for Reform looks at the potential of charities in providing early years services. It was produced by the ACEVO Early Years Taskforce, chaired by Anne Longfield OBE. Following an examination of the existing landscape of early years services, the report recommended that:

  • Changes the culture across Government to consistently engage the voluntary sector in policy making and implementation. We have enjoyed good engagement with DfE throughout the life of this taskforce, but this needs to be mainstreamed and consistently applied. The emergence of a new Children’s Improvement Board in helping design and implement reform of early years, without any voluntary sector representation, shows that old habits die hard. If the Government is serious about transformation, and serious about voluntary sector engagement, it needs to ensure that voluntary organisations are around the top table as well as traditional players such as local authorities.
  • Ring-fences the Early Intervention Grant to ensure funding gets to its intended target. The recommendations in this report are largely about a change of culture and priority rather than funding. However, despite widespread agreement that early intervention leads to better outcomes for children and families, and saves money in the long term, funding for early intervention is not reaching services. Many are closing as a result. A ring-fence on the Early Intervention Grant is needed to prevent further reductions in this crucial area of work.
  • Works with councils to achieve a step change in commissioning practice. Local councils need to improve their commissioning, with a specific focus on better engagement with the voluntary sector. DfE should work with councils to support, challenge, monitor change, and take action should poor practice continue.
  • Creates a level playing field on VAT and pensions. There are major barriers to voluntary organisations competing fairly with large public bodies and private companies. Voluntary organisations are disadvantaged by their inability to reclaim VAT, unlike council-run services, and disincentivised from working in partnership by VAT rules. We recommend that the Government extend section 33 of the VAT Act, or set aside a similar fund to that set aside for academies to reclaim VAT. Similarly, rules around public sector pensions put voluntary sector providers at a disadvantage when bidding to run services where there are TUPE implications, and we recommend that DfE work with the Treasury to address these barriers.
  • Ensures that new processes such as payment by results do not further disadvantage the voluntary sector, by developing key principles for implementation of payment by results to ensure payment genuinely rewards those who achieve results. This means payment by results (PbR) must be additional, not a final payment, to enable all organisations to take part. Funds must get to the frontline delivery organisation and not be spent on local authority administration. Payment by results must be based on outcomes, not short-term outputs. A proportion of PbR budgets should be reserved for investment in evaluation to improve the evidence base about what works in the Foundation Years. Government must ensure all these are tested in PbR trials, to ensure that unintended consequences are avoided.

To read the full report, see here.