Service cuts fear for looked-after children in Norfolk

Looked-after children in Norfolk could have their services cut if council proposals to slash costs are approved.

Looked-after children in Norfolk could have their services cut if council proposals to slash costs are approved.

Norfolk Council is consulting on cutting children’s services in areas including social work, leaving care support, and adoption and special guardianship services.

Norfolk may also devolve the entire budget for special educational needs to schools and is considering reducing the scale of family support services.

These proposals follow the government’s comprehensive spending review last week. Norfolk plans to reduce staffing by 3,000 and slash spending by £150m over the next three years.

According to Alison Thomas, cabinet member for children’s services, the cuts will have no impact on thresholds.

“Certainly as far as child protection is concerned we wouldn’t change our thresholds,” she said. “We have a duty to be as careful as possible with regard to child in this area.

“We haven’t changed thresholds over the past few years, despite seeing a huge increase in the numbers of referrals.”

However, Jonathan Hoyle, chair of A National Voice, said the proposals would inevitably lead to more children at risk.

“It would seem the proposals lack foresight,” he said. “Cutting support services and preventive services, while not ‘statutory’, prevent children and young people becoming looked after. With the right support and preventive services, you can stop child-in-need cases becoming child protection cases.

“We know, all too well, the children who have slipped through the net and the tragic consequences this can have. The names we associate with this were during a time of substantial safety nets, preventive services and early intervention. What will happen when these services cease?”

Thomas said questions like this were to be settled during the consultation, based on public opinion.

“These proposed changes are suggestions only,” she said. “At the moment I’m wanting and waiting for members of the public to come back to us with their thoughts about how some of the suggestions could impact the lives of people in Norfolk.”

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