Category Archives: Cuts

Act now to keep your Children’s Centre open!

childrencentresright

The redesign of Birmingham’s Early Years services is likely to take the best part of 5-6 years from conception to execution. Birmingham’s Early Years Services currently provide support to around 100,000 parents and 80,000 children at any one time. Early years services consist of Children’s centres, Health Visitors, Parenting support and Pregnancy and breastfeeding support services which support parents from the time a child is conceived up until the age of 5.

There has been a major service review over a nearly 3 three year period, and the current procurement process up to the award of the new contract is likely to take a further 10-11 months, there will be a further period where the contract is implemented. This extended period of time and the convoluted nature of the processes involved have provided useful political cover to the Council’s Labour leadership who have still not had to name and own the actual cuts and closures in Early Years services to come.

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Filed under Birmingham City Council, Cuts, News

Le Grand review – the marketisation and outsourcing of children’s social care is the aim

“ The game’s out there, and it’s play or get played. That simple”

Omar Little

Forget Birmingham’s children, the Le Grand review of Birmingham’s failing children’s social care department is part of a bigger national political game and Birmingham’s failings are Michael Gove’s opportunities.

Gove set out his agenda last November when he stated ‘I believe that we have not been either systematic, radical or determined enough in our efforts to reform the system of children’s social care in this country.’ (1) Going on to question why Children’s social care services needed to be provided by local councils.

All the better that Birmingham is a high profile Labour controlled council, that has been politically hamstrung by it’s failure to prioritise and improve services to vulnerable children in the city while simultaneously cutting them.

The well documented difficulties of social care services in the city over more than a ten year period and failure to adequately safeguard children have allowed the Government to appoint a Review Team whose brief included making proposals for alternative arrangements for delivering these critical services.

The Review has been led by Prof Julian Le Grand, and while nominally independent Le Grand has impeccable neo-liberal credentials as a champion of independent Social Work practices under the last New Labour Government and an exponent of competition and market forces within public provision.

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Underfunded safeguarding services leaves unidentified children at risk

A shortfall of resources has been identified as a critical issue in the Le Grand Review of children’s social care services in Birmingham which was published last week.

The independent review was appointed by the Government in November to report on the ability of the Council to make improvements to it’s safeguarding services after being rated as inadequate by repeated OFSTED inspections since 2009.

The underfunding of child social care in the city is identified as a likely factor affecting the relatively low rate of child protection referrals into the Department.

The report raises a current concern that there are a significant number of young people in need of protection who have not been referred to the council, what the report calls at ‘unidentified risk’.

The Reviewer’s compared the rates of referral and safeguarding activity between different council’s and found that there are a lower number of active child protection cases in Birmingham than should be expected.

In Birmingham the rate of child protection enquiries per 10,000 children for 2013 was 107.5 compared to the national average of 111.5. This rate of referral would also be expected to be higher in Birmingham due to the higher proportion of local children living in poverty and in low income families in the city.

The review authors raise the possibility that Birmingham has developed a high threshold criteria to cope with the under resourcing of safeguarding service.

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CENTRO budget cuts confirmed

Centro pensioners
But pensioners claim partial victory

On Friday 14th February over 100 pensioners and other anti-cuts protesters packed the CENTRO board meeting which was meeting to decide their 2014-2015 budget.

The chair claimed that CENTRO had no choice but to implement the budget reduction demanded by the seven metropolitan councils led by Birmingham. This was sharply refuted by interruptions from the floor which pointed out that until April 2014 the board has the right to set whatever budget it chooses and demand a corresponding precept from the councils.

It emerged that CENTRO bosses have abandoned plans to make pensioners pay on trams and trains, and increase child fares to two-thirds adult. They admitted the scale of public and particularly organised pensioner opposition was the reason.

However they are going ahead with a cut to the budget for Ring and Ride which will mean an increase in fares from 60p to £1.00. This is spite of a 55000 signature petition assembled mainly by pensioners, and in defiance of the obvious equality issues involved in making the only cut in services at mostly disabled people’s expense. The chair of the Ring and Ride walked out of the board meeting in protest. The chair said that these issues would be considered by a working group headed by Darren Cooper the Sandwell council leader.

The Labour majority claimed the rest of the budget cut would be met by cutting back room staff but this seems improbable to achieve. In the vote the Tory and Liberal Democrat councillors voted against the budget, hypocritically considering that the cuts are caused by coalition reductions in local government spending. However the budget was easily carried by the large Labour majority.
While jubilant at the partial retreat, pensioners promised to carry on the fight for Ring and Ride especially as further cuts next year were scheduled.

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Spring Hill Library Campaign Hots Up

springhill library  (1)

springhill library  (2)

Spring Hill Library was listed for closure in Ladywood District’s cuts program. The iconic Victorian Gothic a Free Library had recently been refurbished at a cost of £250000 to Tesco as a condition of the development of the new store alongside.

A meeting of 15 outraged residents and users met on January 31st and vowed to fight the closure. A week later a further meeting attracted 30 people. They pointed out that Spring Hill is a thriving library with increasing footfall. On the border of Ladywood and Soho wards, it provides vital library, information, and computer services to two of the most deprived wards in the whole UK. The convenience of combining a visit to the library with a shopping trip means the library is finding many more remote users too.
The secretary to Ladywood MP Shabana Mahmood attended the meeting and advised that the campaign discuss alternative ways of finding the cuts with the district officers, but many people are opposed to a tit for tat approach and just want the decision reversed.
On Saturday February 9th a petitioning session was held outside the library and in Tesco. Hundreds of signatures were obtained and this will be repeated next Saturday. The local support is overwhelming and this is fight that can and must be won.

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West Handsworth Neighbourhood Forum – Wed 5th Feb

dec 5th draft B council house gradientCouncil Cuts – What, Where, When and Why

A public meeting with Steve Salt, District Head, Perry Barr and Alistair Wingate, Handsworth Against the Cuts. Local Councillors also invited.

7pm, Wed 5th Feb
St Augustine’s School
Avenue Road, B21 8ED

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Attend your District Committee – Make your anger known

dec 5th draft B council house gradientAll District Committees meet at the Council House in the daytime, just to make them inaccessible?
Members of the public have the right to attend but only to speak at the discretion of the chair. The current round of meetings will be discussing the district cuts to libraries, play centres, youth facilities, neighbourhood advice, car parking, etc. These total 30% of budget this year and 30% of what is left next year! making 50% overall.

Selly Oak Thursday 30th January 11.00
Perry Barr Thursday 30th January 3.00
Northfield Friday 31st January 2.00

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