Children’s centre facing axe in council’s bid to save £800,000

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One of two children’s resource centres will close as part of an £800,000 cost-cutting shake-up of services for disabled youngsters and their families in North Yorkshire.

Either the Ghyll Children’s Resource Centre in Skipton or another centre at Morton-on-Swale, Northallerton, face the chop as part of a raft of proposals by North Yorkshire County Council.

The surviving centre would specialise in catering for looked after disabled children and young people who may otherwise require provision to be made outside the county. The centres host some day and holiday activities but mainly provide short breaks for disabled children and young people.

The county council insists the same number of young people will continue to get overnight respite care and the number of nights families benefit from such care will remain unchanged as they try to move towards more family-based care.

It hopes to boost family-based overnight opportunities, either through domiciliary care or with foster carers, through recruiting 26 new foster carers.

Up to £300,000 in capital funding has been set aside to fund adaptations to foster carers’ homes. It envisions the current capacity in children’s resource centres will no longer be required.

Provision in the central and west areas of the county will 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, under the proposals.

Councillor Paul English, who represents Skipton West, said: “Cuts have to be made but it’s unfortunate that it always seems to be the vulnerable who are taking the brunt of the cuts, such as the disabled and people with learning difficulties. The Ghyll is vital, not just for the users but also for the family members as it gives them respite.”

The proposals will save £800,000, says the council, by reducing bureaucracy, targeting provision, reducing the cost of overnight care, reviewing the staffing of its assessment arrangements and reductions in the cost of individual packages of support.

County Councillor Tony Hall, the executive member for children’s services, said: “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.”

Other proposals mean East Barnby outdoor education centre would lose a £58,000 annual grant from the council, which enables it to help disabled children and their families.

The council says “significant improvements” will be made in preparing disabled young people for adulthood through a new model of specialist support between the ages of 14 and 25. Discretionary short-break grants for families of children and young people with a lesser need will remain, but the budget will be capped at £100,000 per annum.

A statement by NYPACT, the parent/carer forum for North Yorkshire, urged people to make their views known.

It said: “NYPACT see this as an opportunity to influence the decisions that need to be made to minimise the impact of this reduction of funds on families with disabled children across the county.”