Council to cut services for disabled children

County Hall, the centre of North Yorkshire County Council's campus in Northallerton.

County Hall, the centre of North Yorkshire County Council's campus in Northallerton.

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A Harrogate-based charity has said it is ‘deeply concerned’ about proposed cuts to council services for children with disabilities.

North Yorkshire County Council has launched an online public consultation on proposed cuts to services for disabled children as the council look to save £887,000.

Jackie Snape, chief executive of Disability Action Yorkshire.(1202273AM2)

Jackie Snape, chief executive of Disability Action Yorkshire.(1202273AM2)

The council is currently facing huge budget cuts of £74million on top of the £94million it is budgeted to have saved by March 2015.

Sweeping cuts are likely to see library services scrapped unless volunteers come forward to run them, and the future of community transport services, youth services, and some services for older and more vulnerable adults look uncertain as the County Council scramble to make the neccesary savings.

Jackie Snape, chief executive of Disability Action Yorkshire which is based in Hornbeam Park said: “We are obviously deeply concerned about the proposed cuts to an already underfunded service which currently does not always met the needs of those using it.

“We are pleased to see that NYCC are consulting with those who will be affected, namely parents and carers and most importantly the young people themselves, and hope that their views are truly taken into account before any decisions are made and actions are taken.

“At the moment in the UK face six in ten families find that they can’t get the services they need in their local area. We sincerely hope that these changes do not mean that more parents in the North Yorkshire area find themselves having to make difficult choices in order to find services for their children elsewhere.”

One children’s resource centre either in Skipton or Northallerton will face closure as services are centralised in Beck House, Starbeck and Nidderdale House, Killinghall.

The council are looking to recruit 26 new foster carers to offer family-based overnight care.

A spokesperson for the county council said it has invested heavily in the past and is one of the top spenders in the country on support for disabled children and their families and all 450 families who are currently eligible for help will continue to be supported, though 130 families will have less frequent contact with social services.

County Councillor Tony Hall, North Yorkshire’s Executive Member for Children’s Services. “We can’t continue the current level of funding but we believe that the strategy provides improvements which are affordable and based on the belief that children’s needs are best served in their own families and communities.

“We have invested generously in previous years and always sought to give the most effective support to families of disabled children, as we appreciate the very great challenges they face.

“Now we must challenge some of our thinking and make sure that we give parents more say in the way in which support is provided.”

Will you be affected by the changes? Email Laura.Hill@jpress.co.uk

This enables parents and carers to take a break from their caring responsibilities, and for disabled children and young people to have a period of day care, to access a community activity or specialist day care activity, or an overnight service in foster care or a children’s resource centre.

The new strategy would see the same number of families getting support but with greater emphasis on family-based overnight care, an encouragement to ‘direct payments’ so that parents can choose and personalise the service they want, and significant protection for about another 300 families who receive short break grants for disabled children who have lower levels of need.

The council’s aspirations on behalf of disabled children and young people and their families remain high even though budgets are being reduced. The strategy seeks to protect what is most valued, while doing some things differently. It emphasises more personalised choice and support, is less bureaucratic and targets provision more effectively.

Through its stronger communities programme, which offers county council partnership with local communities wishing to run local services, the authority hopes also to provide the families of disabled children with more local support and advice.

“We believe these proposals are ambitious for everybody involved in support for disabled children and young people,” said County Councillor Tony Hall, North Yorkshire’s Executive Member for Children’s Services. “We can’t continue the current level of funding but we believe that the strategy provides improvements which are affordable and based on the belief that children’s needs are best served in their own families and communities.

“We have invested generously in previous years and always sought to give the most effective support to families of disabled children who often have complex needs, as we appreciate the very great challenges they face. Now we must challenge some of our thinking and make sure that we give parents more say in the way in which support is provided. The implementation of these proposals will therefore be managed with great care and in partnership with families and the voluntary and community sector.”

The proposals will save £800,000 overall by achieving a reduction in bureaucracy, targeting provision, reducing the cost of overnight care, reviewing the staffing of our assessment arrangements and some reductions in the cost of individual packages of support.

Proposals include the following:

Family-based overnight opportunities, either through domiciliary care or with foster carers, through the recruitment of 26 new foster carers. Up to £300,000 in capital funding has been set aside to fund adaptations to the homes of foster carers.

Children’s Resource Centres will remain available for children and young people with the most complex medical needs or challenging behaviour and for whom a family based setting would be inappropriate.

As the number of overnight family-based short break opportunities increases. the current capacity in Children’s Resource Centres will no longer be required. Provision in the Central and West areas of the county will therefore be centralised in Beck House, Starbeck and Nidderdale House, Killinghall. The Children’s Resource Centre at May Lodge, Scarborough, will continue for the east of the county. One of the other two - the Ghyll, Skipton, or Morton-on-Swale, Northallerton - would specialise in catering for looked after disabled children and young people who may otherwise require provision to be made outside of the county. The other will be closed.

Significant improvements will be made in preparing disabled young people for adulthood by implementing a new model of specialist support between the ages of 14 and 25.

About 130 families with disabled children with lower levels of assessed need, who currently have regular contact from a social care professional, will continue to receive a service but without the need for such frequent involvement. They will be provided with a named person to discuss the needs of their child at any time and will continue to get an annual review of their Statement of Special Educational Needs.

Discretionary short break grants for families of children and young people with a lesser need will be maintained as it is recognised that the availability of these grants can help to prevent the need for statutory services but the budget will be capped at £100,000 per annum.

The county council will work with parents’ groups to develop a sustainable funding model for the provision which is made at East Barnby outdoor education centre for disabled children and their families. Under the proposals, the centre will no longer receive annual grant funding from the council for this purpose.

The funding to the parents’ forum, NYPACT and the Flying High group of disabled young people will be protected.

“The strategy is a thoughtful and positive response to big challenges and I look forward to hearing the views of parents and carers, and children and young people on the proposals,” said Cllr Hall.

The consultation runs until 11 March, 2015, and there are a number of consultation meetings arranged for January and February.