A Tragic Tale About Welfare Cuts and Children’s Centres

On Tuesday December 6, Labour City Council’s controversial “Early Help remodelling” consultation will come to an end. This consultation will determine the future of all council funded children’s services in Leicester. “In developing proposals for this consultation,” the Council write, “we considered three options:

  • “Reduce the service budget by £3 million (option A)
  • “Reduce the service budget by £4 million (option B)
  • “Reduce the service budget by £5 million (option C)”

Sounding much like the well-known fairy tale, Goldilocks, where three types of porridge were tried and tested, the Council has already considered the outcomes of each of their three proposed options.

“Option A was deemed unsuitable as it would not provide the level of savings required, and option C would not provide sufficient services or meet our legal requirement to provide children, young people and family centres.

“We have therefore decided to consult on option B as this would achieve considerable savings whilst also providing a good level of quality service for families who need them most.”

For some reason the Council are attempting to portray the middle option — which will result in the loss of many jobs (the equivalent of 127 full-time posts) and services — as just right, an option that will still provide “a good level of quality service for families who need them most.”

This quality service for those that need it most involves a proposal to halve the funding for the city’s ten adventure playgrounds that are in the parts of the city that need them most. Let there be no doubt that such drastic cuts would lead to the closure of the playgrounds, which is why, since the launch of the consultation, two protests have taken place and over 14,000 signatures collected on a petition opposing the proposed funding cuts.

Option B will also help children by closing down eleven children’s centres, bring an end to the city’s Bookstart scheme which caters to the needs of “priority families with children aged 18 months – 2 years”; halving the provision of “Group courses for parents that are linked to public health issues and service user demand (for example, positive parenting, stop smoking, health and safety, etc)”; replacing the six advice points spread across the city which currently provide “advice, short-term support and signposting” with just one “central advice point”. With regard this last “proposed” change the Council notes positively:

“This would mean that there would be one number to telephone for advice, guidance and requesting support. However, advice, short-term support and signposting to other services will still be available in any one of the remaining 12 centres.”

Other reductions in services are also being consulted on, but one that seems particularly unlikely to allow the Council to provide “a good level of quality service for families who need them most” is their decommissioning of their Welfare Rights Services provided from Leicester’s children’s centres (as of 31 March 2017). Presently, this service “provides advice and guidance on a range of issues that include debt management, benefits and financial support” – all very crucial services in a city where 30,000 children are presently classified as growing up in poverty.

welfare-rights-oct-2016-leicester

This consultation is, however, no fairy tale. What is clear is that even Goldilocks herself would find it impossible to settle for the toxic (Option B) porridge that is currently being offered up to the people of Leicester as a palatable “just right” form of Tory cuts.

The people of Leicester deserve better. We need a Labour Council that seeks to stand up to our government of Tory villains and gives us the option of choosing no cuts at all. Now that sounds like the type of opposition party that would sit “just right” with the people of Leicester. And then we could all live happily ever after. THE END

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