Friday, December 8, 2023

Bid to slash Thurrock’s children’s services budget by £2.2million could see closure of two nurseries and loss of 13 jobs

A BID to slash Thurrock’s children’s services budget by £2.2million could see the closure of two nurseries and the loss of 13 jobs.

In line with other council departments, children’s services must help plug the council’s £34,000 funding gap.

A report by Michele Lucas, assistant director of education and skills at Thurrock Council outlines plans to review two unnamed council-run nurseries in the borough.

The council doesn’t have a statutory duty to run the nurseries and is currently running a public consultation to look at a different way to deliver the service.

The report said: “If, when the consultation exercise is completed we are unable to identify an alternative provider for the nurseries, then we would need to consider the closure of this service.”

The overhaul of education and skills will save £1million and includes a review of home to school transport. This includes students who access post-16 special educational needs transport.

In a separate report, Janet Simon, interim assistant director children’s social care and early help, outlines a £1.2million savings plan.

This focuses on foster placements which account for a third of the children’s services budget.

It is proposed to increase council run foster placements by 15 to reduce the reliance on external fostering agencies.

Services to provide a range of help for parents of vulnerable children such as supervised contact arrangements and family support services are also being reviewed.

The council hopes to work with families “through a relationship-based approach to make positive differences and enable very vulnerable young people to remain living securely with their families”. It adds: “This will enable us to drive more efficiencies whilst continuing to deliver and provide services using a holistic ‘Think Family Approach’ which is collaborative and at a lesser cost to the local authority.”

This will result in less staff being needed. Consequently, a total of 22 posts will be at risk or affected resulting in a maximum of 13 redundancies.

The council said: “Thurrock Council is facing a significant budget shortfall with an estimated deficit of £34 million over the next two financial years. There is a statutory obligation to report a balanced budget and all available alternative options have been explored including Council tax increases and asset reviews.

“It has, however, been identified that a saving of an estimated £20 million will need to come from staffing in the next two years. Children’s Services, having the second highest staffing headcount in the council, will need to contribute to the savings figure whilst also maintaining high standards of services to children and their families.”


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