Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Children and Education Budget Savings: In Detail

The Performance and Overview Committee gave a rigorous examination of the proposed cuts in the area of Children’s Services.

Oaktree for Looked After Children

Portfolio Holder Sue McPherson was delighted to announce that the Oaktree Resource Centre for Looked After Children will not be closed.

Cllr Diana Hale asked: “That is good news but that money will still need to be saved and I would like to know from where?”

Educational Psychology Provision

Council officers were keen to stress that this was not going to affect front line provision. The saving of £70,000 was in relation to an Assistant Principal post.

Speaking from the public gallery, Chair of Governors at Arthur Bugler Angie Gaywood said: “I hope the front line isn’t affected. We know that there are terrible waiting lists for students to seek help.”

Special Educational Need Placements

Head of Service, Colin Stewart outlined some of the costs involved in sending young people with Special Educational Needs (SEN) out of the borough.

He said: “Some of the costs can reach as much as £60,000 per year.”

Some students are sent as far as East Sussex and Kent.

Officers outlined that more use could be made of the successful projects such as the Ascend Project at Ormiston Park Academy as well as the new facility at Dilkes Primary.

Youth and Connexions Service

Sue McPherson confirmed that this was more of a streamlining proposal that was overdue after the two services had come together some time ago.

She said: “It may be a matter of cutting from three mini-buses to two and areas such as data support.

Lab Cllr Lynn Worrall said: “We really do hope that this does not affect the NEETS in this borough who need more help than ever before.”

Discretionary Transport

Colin Stewart was keen to point out that the clue is in the title: those who received statutory transport would not be affected.

Cllr Worrall said: “I can tell you that you will be having coach-loads of students from the Tilbury area being bussed all over the borough as they cannot get into the Gateway Academy. I am not happy with them being means-tested for this service.”

Colin Stewart pointed to figures that showed that Thurrock’s provision for discretionary transport was four times greater than the national average and of all 46 unitary authorities, only the Isle of Wight was greater due to shipping students to the mainland.

Unqualified Staff Replacing Social Workers

Head of Children’s Health, Jean Imray pointed to challenges in trying to appoint social workers in the borough.

She said:”This proposal is not about putting children at risk. There are people from the borough with professional qualifications in education, community work, people with great life experience who could play a valuable role.”

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