Andover News - Disabled Children Breaks to be Considered by Hants County Council

A consultation on changes to the way short breaks for disabled children are provided in Hampshire is to be considered by Hampshire County Council. 
Today, (25 July 2014) the County Council’s Executive Lead Member for Children’s Services, Councillor Keith Mans, will be asked to agree a 12 week consultation  on proposals for changing the Council’s short breaks provision from April 2015. Proposed changes may include developing future eligibility criteria.

The move stems from budget decisions made in February 2014. Children’s Services, like all other County Council departments, must take steps to achieve savings against a backdrop of significant reductions in Government grant. It also comes at a time when there is growing demand for social care services.

Since 2008, the County Council has found £140m in savings, with Children’s Services contributing £26m of savings towards this figure. In spite of these efficiencies and other reductions in Children’s Services’ specific grants – services for children with disabilities were protected. However, with future cuts expected in Government funding, this position is no longer sustainable.

As part of a further £26m that Children’s Services must find by 2015, it is proposed that between £2.5m and £3.5m could be saved from budgets in relation to children with disabilities. As part of this, the County Council is developing proposals for reducing expenditure on the discretionary aspects of provision, including short breaks activities, and reducing the cost of overnight short breaks – while seeking to retain the quantity of overnight respite that can be provided.

This means, of the total budget for children with disabilities (£19.7m), it is proposed that £2.2m (11.2%) of savings could be made by making changes to how discretionary short breaks services are currently provided.

Councillor Keith Mans, Executive Lead Member for Children’s Services, commented: “I will be considering the report very carefully before making a decision about whether to go ahead with the consultation.

“We are intensely aware of how important Short Breaks are to children, young people, their families and carers but, as much as we would like to, 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. This means we are no longer able to offer the same level of discretionary support to disabled children who do not meet the threshold for statutory services. However, I can assure you that we are committed to doing all that we can to provide as wide a range of choice as possible, within our limited means.”

The Department is seeking to reduce the £3.2m budget for discretionary short break activities by £1.85m.

If agreed, the consultation will begin on 1 September 2014, and close on 30 November 2014. Analysis of responses will take place during December with final proposals for changes to short breaks provision to be considered by the Executive Lead Member for Children’s Services on 21 January 2015.

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