The review on the residential short-break service for disabled children has travelled a long way in the last few months. This review has been undertaken because the service needs to be delivered differently as there is less money to go around. I have said it many times before; I wish it was different, but it is not. In the coming years, most services will either see a reduction, a different delivery model, or sadly stopping all together.
Currently the Council operates six short break centres in Cornwall; and this provides residential short breaks to over 160 disabled children. The cost of running this service is £3m. Overall the Council spends £10.5m on services to support children with educational needs and disabilities.
The proposal is to close St. Christopher’s and Lowenna Redwing. This will affect 35 families and 27 staff. The residential short breaks needs to save roughly £600k from a £3m budget. Here is the REPORT and recommendations which were presented to the PAC today.
As part of the democratic process the proposals were discussed at the Children and Young People Portfolio Advisory Committee (CYP PAC). The report detailing the proposals was given a vigorous challenge. This was to make sure the proposals would not leave any young person who needs the service without access to provision. The PAC rightly pointed out that they wished things were different and challenged many points in the report.
There was a moot point of members of the public were not allowed to address the committee. They may have felt this was unfair, and generally the public is allowed to submit questions to the PAC. It is just on this meeting it was an extraordinary meeting, and there are no public questions. You might think it is too much process, but when you play fast and loose with the rules, you tend to come unstuck. However, there had been a lot of representation from parents which had been fed into the report.
I want to make it clear that by reducing the number of buildings the Council operates this service; people will still get a short break service. It just might be delivered in a different location, or by another method. I want to reassure people no child will be left without any provision they need. I know this is a worrying time for parents and carers, and from the correspondence I have read, I totally understand the concerns.
The following are the final recommendations that had the support of the PAC. It will be these recommendations I will be presenting and recommending to the Cabinet on the 29th January. It will be up to the Cabinet who will make the final decision.
- That the content and outcome of the Cornwall Council Review of Short Break Services for Disabled Children and Young People, as set out in Appendix 1 to the report, be endorsed.
- That the outcome of the consultation meetings with staff and parents/carers, as set out in Appendix 2 to the report, be noted.
- That, following the relevant children’s needs being re-assessed and suitable alternative provision being identified and implemented including crisis placement, the proposal as outlined in Paragraph 1.5 of the report to close St. Christopher’s (Redruth), including Lowenna Redwing (Truro), be approved.
- The Children and Young People Portfolio Advisory Committee requests that Cabinet recommends to Council a waiver to the Council policy on capital receipts that would allow the receipts from any sale to be reinvested in short breaks provision.
Recommendation to Corporate Director for Children Schools and Families:
- The Children and Young People Portfolio Advisory Committee is concerned that there may not be sufficient capacity in family based short breaks. The Portfolio Advisory Committee recommends that the Children Schools and Families Directorate prioritise short breaks provision as part of its Medium Term Financial Review process.
Many will think the Council is being cruel in reducing this provision. This is not true, as the Council has to change services because there is simply less money to go around. The last point I want to dismiss is the Council is not reducing the service because it wants to make a profit from the sale of the buildings. This is not how the Council or the Children’s Service operates.