autumngeorgeThe scrapping of employer's NI contributions for under 21-year-olds headlined an Autumn Statement from the Chancellor which featured mixed news for children and families.

In delivering his latest mid-Budget address, George Osborne said Britain was set to be back in the black by 2018/19 but the job of recovery was "not yet done".

Mr Osborne began his 50-minute statement by saying the UK was now growing faster than any other major economy but he stressed he wanted a "responsible recovery" and warned of "more difficult decisions" to come on spending.

He acknowledged that the effects of the economic crash on family budgets were still being felt, but he pledged: "The hard work of the British people is paying off and we will not squander their efforts."

Other key measures included:
- School leavers who do not have basic qualifications will go into training
- An extra £150m to update and build kitchens and dining rooms in English primary schools
- A cap on total government welfare spending will start in 2015
- Tax reliefs for Social Investment Funds

Commenting on those measures, 4 Children CEO Anne Longfield said: "For those of us who believe that prevention is so much better than cure, there were a few nuggets of encouragement in today’s statement in the scrapping of employer NI payments for under 21s and the new tax relief scheme for  social impact bonds but it fell far short of being transformational for Britain’s families and raises some deep concerns about the impact of reduced spending on the poorest.

"We would have liked to see more investment in the most vulnerable families and for the tax free Childcare proposals to be brought forward – both of which would have helped to boost the country’s finances, as well as a boost to the vital work done by Children’s Centres which will bring over the coming years increasing dividends for our society.
"Currently this country is squandering  the talent and energy of far too many of its young people, with over a million not in employment, education or training. This is such a sad, unhealthy and wasteful way for young adults to spend the years that should be setting them up for their future working lives and so we strongly welcome the Chancellor’s announcement encouraging employers to open the door to them by removing National Insurance contributions for under 21 year olds.
"Too many young people who fail to gain the basics at school face having their job prospects blighted for life so we support the Chancellor’s announcement that those unemployed young people without  Maths or English qualifications will go into training straight away. The Government must make sure though that this training is sufficiently funded, effective and really helps young people on the route to unemployment rather than just being a way to decrease the unemployment figures."
"We understand the need to reduce spending on welfare but we need to ensure that already disadvantaged families are not pushed further into crisis by this measure. This measure must go alongside a major investment in services and support to prevent crisis.  That means more help for families who are just coping and greater investment in childrens centres."