Gloucestershire Council is cutting back on its virtual school for looked-after children, family intervention projects and parenting programmes in an effort to save £3.2m.
Gloucestershire was one of the first councils to pilot the virtual school, opened as part of the previous Labour government’s strategy to narrow the gap between high-performing students and disadvantaged children.
Cabinet papers show Gloucestershire will now fund the scheme through the dedicated schools grant, meeting its statutory duty to have a designated teacher for looked-after children in each school.
It has lost £300,000 funding from the Care Matters grant and has sliced about £47,000 from the £64,000 training budget for teachers of looked-after children.
A council spokesperson said the family intervention project would focus only on Gloucester city and the roll-out to other areas would be scrapped. The council is also stopping the expert parenting role to help families identified most at-risk of antisocial behaviour.
Council papers state: “The aim has been to maintain some investment in early intervention work that contributes to safeguarding…a number of projects focused on support to vulnerable children will need to reduce their scope, including many in the voluntary and community sector.”
Questions remain over how Gloucestershire intends to manage the cuts as the number of children in the county going into care increases.
Cabinet papers suggest that some of the grant funding that has been cut by the government had also been used to support placements over and above what had been planned for.
However the council papers state: “This trend is not expected to continue and activity and costs continue to be actively managed through panels and the task group. Other overspends include adoption services, but these are expected to be reduced by the introduction of a new policy with tighter conditions, and the cost of supporting a disabled child at home, but a review of these arrangements is taking place.”
Community Care is waiting for a further response from the council on these areas.