A cross-party group of Hampshire County Councillors have called in a decision by the executive member for children’s services to hold a consultation over cuts to short break services for disabled children because they say he has failed to consider recommendations made by a select committee.
Hampshire Council Children’s Services is seeking to reduce the budget for discretionary short break activities by £1.85m as part of a wider package of cuts the county council is implementing in response to a reduction in their funding from central government.
Campaigners say the proposed changes may include developing future eligibility criteria, to exclude a number of families from receiving any short breaks at all.
On 23 July the Children and Young People Select Committee discussed the findings of a working party and heard representations from parent groups Hampshire Parent Carers Network and Parent Voice.
Lib Dems, Ukip and Labour members and back bench Conservative members all urged the executive member Cllr Keith Mans to delay or mitigate the proposed cuts and recommendations was made to support the services for a further year.
Days later, Councillor Mans announced a decision to hold a 12 week public consultation starting in September.
HPCN said they were “Disappointed” that Cllr Mans had decided to press ahead with the consultation rather than adopt the recommendation to delay the cuts.
Committee members subsequently voted in a meeting to request a call-in of Councillor Mans’ decision.
A further meeting of the Children and Young People Select committee will now be convened on 8 September and the consultation, due to commence on 8 September, will therefore be halted pending the outcome of the call-in meeting.
Hampshire Lib Dem spokesperson for Children Cllr Jackie Porter said:
“This funding is vital for the many families with disabled children, who use the breaks and I would like to see the decision changed to at the very least protect the current HCC funding until a guaranteed alternative source is in place.
Hard pressed parents took the time to give evidence to the working party but it seems it was all in vain
It is clear that despite the recommendations of the working party the executive member had already made up his mind to cut the options for the future.”
Lib Dem member Cllr Malcolm Wade – who had previously described the proposals as “a cut too far” – told Eastleigh News:
“This funding is vital for the many families with disabled children, who use the breaks and I would like to see the decision changed to at the very least protect the current HCC funding until a guaranteed alternative source is in place.”
Cllr Andy Moore, the Ukip member for Eastleigh East, said:
“I am 100% opposed to any cuts to the short break service – discretionary or otherwise”
In a statement Cllr Mans acknowledged the call in and said he would await “this next stage of the scrutiny process” but added:
“I think it is widely agreed that we cannot sustain the current level of funding and at the same time meet our obligation to provide statutory services such as safeguarding – where we are seeing significant growth in the number of children coming into care. We remain committed to doing all that we can to provide as wide a range of choice as possible, to support children with disabilities, within our limited means.”
The Hampshire Parent Carer Network said in a press release
“We are delighted to hear that there will be further scrutiny of the Short Breaks programme by the Children and Young People Select Committee; given the anticipated negative impact the proposed cuts will have on vulnerable families across Hampshire.”