The cost of delivering children’s services in North Yorkshire has been rising rapidly - George Jabbour

As councillors up and down the country are preparing for their budgets, we in North Yorkshire have been carefully assessing the competing priorities of the residents we represent with a detailed focus on children’s services, a subject of particular interest to me as a former school governor.

One of the highlights of 2023 was the outcome of Ofsted’s inspection of children’s services.

Each of the areas that inspectors assessed was judged as outstanding, including the experiences and progress of care leavers.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

This did not come as a surprise to members of North Yorkshire Council’s Children and Families Overview and Scrutiny Committee, whose meetings I have been attending since Summer 2022, as we periodically review the local authority’s performance in the aspects connected with our work.

George Jabbour is the councillor for Helmsley & Sinnington.George Jabbour is the councillor for Helmsley & Sinnington.
George Jabbour is the councillor for Helmsley & Sinnington.

In fact, as a member of the local authority’s Corporate Parenting Members' Group, I attended a care leavers' celebration that the Council planned at the University of York. I listened to heart-warming stories and noticed the variety of activities that were organised, such as a tour of the university campus and a Get Inspired session with World Champion Inline Skater, Jenna Downing.

I also visited in Harrogate one of a series of festive events that the Council arranged for care leavers and foster families.

The FEAST programme, which stands for Food, Entertainment, Arts, Sport, Together, is another illustration of a valuable Council offer for young people.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The wide-ranging activities that are delivered during the Easter, Summer and Christmas holidays extend free places and meals to eligible children.

I went to a recent event in Scarborough which had a British Sign Language interpreter as some of the FEAST activities are inclusive for children and young people with special educational needs. A separate project that North Yorkshire Council is undertaking at the moment is its consultation on an autism strategy to support not only children and young people, but also adults.

The draft strategy incorporates input from many organisations and groups to ensure that the Council has the right plan.

A number of consultation meetings have been scheduled. I had the opportunity to briefly drop by the event in Richmond, but there are others across the county, with the last one taking place online on March 15.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

There are numerous other services that are provided by local authorities for children, many of which are statutory.

One that leads to disproportionate outlay in rural communities such as ours is the free school transport for pupils who meet certain criteria. As I sat on the Appeals Committee for Home to School Transport on more than one occasion, I know how crucial this provision is for many households.

However, with new pressures facing the system as a whole, the cost-of-living crisis, intensified demand on all fronts and inflation, the expenditures and spending associated with supplying top-quality services have ballooned and are expected to continue to increase.

For instance, the deficit in North Yorkshire Council’s special educational needs and disability budget alone could reach as much as £100m in the coming years.

This is where difficult decisions have to be made.

George Jabbour is the councillor for Helmsley & Sinnington.

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.