'Safety of at-risk children should not be compromised'

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Coun Dale Smith Coun Dale Smith

The safety of at-risk children in Bradford district should not be compromised when proposed budget cuts come into force, a meeting heard last night.

With the Hamzah Khan case still fresh in the mind, Bradford Council’s Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee met to discuss budget cuts.

The Council is looking to make £13.9 million of “savings” within Children and Young People Services over the next two years as part of a drive to save £73 million in total.

Two of the main areas flagged up at the meeting at City Hall last night were cuts to the youth service and proposals to reduce the number of ‘Looked After Children’ in the district from 900 to 800.

The youth service faces a 79.4 per cent cut in funding throughout 2014-15 and 2015/16, under draft budget savings drawn up by the Council’s Executive.

Councillor Dale Smith said: “To suggest cutting any budget by 80 per cent over two years is extraordinary. The youth service does a lot of good work.”

Coun Malcolm Sykes, chairman of the scrutiny committee, said: “We have to make some very serious decisions. The youth service reduction is a very serious reduction.”

He said: “We should be seriously looking at the youth service as an issue that needs to be resolved through detailed consultation with the private and voluntary sector. We think the youth service is worth a serious examination.”

Concerns were raised by the committee about a proposal to reduce the number of ‘Looked After Children’ in the district from 900 to 800, to garner a saving in the care system across children’s specialist services.

Coun Smith asked: “How confident can you be that it is a workable proposition?”

Julie Jenkins, assistant director of specialist services, responded: “It will be challenging to bring it down to 800 but we will do our best. But if we cannot do it, we will not do it.”

Coun Sykes welcomed that point, saying the safety of vulnerable children was paramount.

A proposal that the Council stops giving financial help with buying school uniforms was also discussed. The Council currently operates a voucher scheme to help some parents.

Coun Sinead Engel (Lab, Clayton and Fairweather Green) said: “Getting uniforms cheaply for secondary schools is horrendous.”

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