Child and domestic abuse support fall victim to cutsBy Victoria Corbett
April 20, 2011
A domestic violence reduction co-ordinator is to be axed and a therapy service for traumatised youngsters is to be overhauled in a bid to save more than £1.4 million in Wokingham children’s services.
The results of a consultation on the proposed changes for Wokingham Borough Council’s children’s services shows there were several concerns over the cuts and shake-ups in the department planned to save the cash.
Following the consultation, the council has recommended the axing of a domestic violence reduction co-ordinator role and restructure of The Oaks Therapy Centre, which provides help to children in care, adopted children and children who have experienced abuse or trauma.
The Oaks will continue to provide support to families it helps at present, however the team will be changed to include multi-skilled staff to provide help to families with a broader spectrum of issues.
The council notes the changes to the service and transition period for families relying on its help will be a “critical piece of work”.
Andy Couldrick, strategic director for children’s services, said: “We want to expand the reach of the service to reach more people in the future.”
Mr Couldrick added the funds for the domestic violence reduction role will be spent on a partner in the voluntary sector who can provide the service instead.
He said this has advantages, as it will mean the service, which provides support to victims and has funded projects to rehabilitate offenders, is not reliant on one person.
Fostering and adoption teams at the council will also merge under the changes and a smaller team will be created to oversee school improvements.
Mr Couldrick said the team would still be on hand to support schools, however high achieving schools would left alone more to drive their own pupils and staff.
Police figures for the last year show the number of recorded domestic abuse incidents fell by nearly 13 per cent to 375 incidents.
There are 12 council officers at risk of redundancy under the changes and a total of 62 posts are affected by the proposals.
Play clubs, which offer activities for children across the borough during school holidays, are to see a reduction in funding, however the council says it plans to target the project at the most vulnerable.
Dingley Family and Specialist Early Years Centre at Wokingham Hospital in Barkham Road, which supports children with disabilities, had expressed concerns about plans to cut its funding.
Arti Divatia, from the Dingley Centre, said staff feared the centre would lose a large amount of its £35,000 grant.
However she said the centre was extremely grateful to the council for agreeing to continue providing enough funds to support families who rely on the service.
A council spokesman said: “Although children’s services have had to make some difficult decisions regarding funding for 2011-2012, we are pleased that in order to maintain continuity of provision we will be able to continue fund Dingley for the next 12 months, at a slightly reduced level, with a view to reviewing the service level agreement for 2012-2013.
“This council and Dingley will continue to work together in partnership to support quality early learning.”
Mr Couldrick said: “I don’t think any of us involved in council services believe we can keep taking money away without having an effect. We are trying to smooth that effect in the best way we can.
“We are aware each time we have to do this we create pressure on the service because we continue to want support and challenge children’s services to go on improving. What we have done in this round of business restructuring is to make sure our critical safeguarding services are not being reduced.”
The council’s personnel board is due to meet tonight at 6pm at Shute End to discuss the consultation results and proposals for children’s services.