Campaigners’ concerns as North Yorkshires cuts services for disabled children

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

Proposals to cut £887,000 of services provided to children and young people with disabilities by 2020 have been approved by North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC).

In response to a public consultation on the proposals, NYCC have deferred to reduce their Short Breaks grants by a third, from £150,000 to £100,000 to 2016/17.

The Children and Young People’s Service also decided against reducing the financial value of new packages of support and instead, all existing cases would be reviewed using the existing indicative levels of service.

While the consultation was about how and not if the savings should be made, many parents and carers used the consultation to express their anxieties about the impact of the cuts.

However, many people were concerned that the number of families receiving discretionary short breaks would be cut by almost half, from 360 to 200, by April 2017.

Janet Sanderson, North Yorkshire’s Executive Member for Children and Young People’s Service said that while the council is aiming to deliver a better service, the cuts would represent a challenge.

She said: “We will have to be looking at the situation very carefully and we need to ensure that the money is going to the most vulnerable people in our society.

“I have worked in Nottingham in a similar field where they kept tightening the budget so hard that you can’t deliver the services in the same way.

“You can only make savings for so long but then you have to make a big change.

“The bottom line is that we are trying to provide a better service but it’s going to be challenging and there will be some things through the net but we will pick those up.

“I hope that we can deliver a better service that fits the 21st century. Services can’t stay the same because life doesn’t stay the same. One size does not fit all so I believe we can introduce a better service.”

Currently, there are 3,300 children requiring high needs funding North Yorkshire schools including 1800 who have a Statement of Special Educational Needs or Education, Health and Care Plan.

However, only 450 children receive statutory short breaks and 380 receiving discretionary short breaks.

Charities including NYPACT, North Yorkshire’s parent, carer forum have also raised concern that funding for discretionary short breaks ran out after three months.

Jackie Snape, chief executive of Harrogate-based charity Disability Action Yorkshire described the level of cuts on this service as ‘unfair’.

She said: “We work with people from the age of 16 and the main difference is people accessing the funding, they need to be able to do the things they want to do.

It’s a worrying time for us, there’s an awful lot of things that are affecting disabled people in health and social care, it’s a time of great uncertainty.”

As part of the executive meeting on May 26, NYCC highlighted how the changes would be delivered. The county council has emphasised approachments to ‘make improvements and minimise disruption.’ NYCC focuses on doing things cost effectively, targeting resources at the greatest need and maitainining limited but more focused early intervention capacity. Reducing the cost of individual packages of support while continuing to meet need and maintaining specialist social work service but increasing its efficiency has also been targeted.