The Birmingham Mail today reported that parents of children who receive respite care at a West Heath care home have started a campaign to protect the service amidst worries for its future.
Concerns were raised at a meeting of parents and family members as Birmingham City council moves to promote a public consultation on their proposals for budget cuts in 2012/13.
After cuts of £212 million proposed and implemented for 2011/12, the council are seeking to reduce spending by a further £65 million in the next financial year.
There are fears that five residential homes in Birmingham could suffer, including Charles House in West Heath. Charles House works with children with a range of learning disabilities including Down’s Syndrome and autism, providing residential and respite care and support for families.
Families are worried that proposed spending cuts, which are to include a restructuring of services for disabled children, could mean the closure of Charles House and others like it.
Northfield Councillor Les Lawrence, who is also BCC’s Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Families, said: “There are no proposals, therefore there is no requirement for any consultation. The City Council has just published the budget consultation for 2012 and you can see that within it there are no closure proposals. This is classic scare tactics.”
A Birmingham City Council spokesperson said: “All areas of council business are currently under review as part of the authority’s effort to reduce expenditure in light of the financial deficit nationally.
“No final decisions have yet been taken on any proposals. The proposals for looked-after children have been shaped to make the service more effective and efficient for young people because extensive research shows that children in care traditionally have poorer life outcomes than those who are placed within families.”
When asked for his thoughts, Northfield MP Richard Burden said: “Previous experience means I am not usually reassured when I hear Birmingham City Council say things like ‘No final decisions have been made’. I will be contacting them to find out what is going on here.”
The consultation document does not make reference to any plans for closures, however there is an obvious desire to restructure services and it is not hard to understand why families may be worried about what this may mean in practice:
Children In Care Placement Strategy – In order to improve outcomes for children, it is proposed to review and reduce the number of placements of children in care in both the external and internal sector, increase the number of foster carers for children and expand our relationship with the private provider sector. This has implications for our residential homes and for our fostering service.
The specific proposals at this stage are:
· Reducing the number of social care external placements
· Reviewing eligibility criteria for Direct Payments
· Increasing the contribution from the NHS to joint placements
· Recommissioning existing residential, domiciliary and respite packages
· and reducing the length of stay in expensive providers
· Increasing the number of in-house foster carers
· Reviewing the number and range of in-house residential placements
BCC Budget Consultation 2012 document – click here to view full document
We will provide more information on this as we get it. If you’re a parent of a child who uses the facilities at Charles House, please get in touch and let us know your views.
If you’re a parent of a child who use, or has used in the past, the facilities at Charles House, please get in touch and tell us your story.