09:47AM, Tuesday 10 October 2017
The changes are being led by Buckinghamshire County Council
Vulnerable children in Bucks could be forced to meet social workers in cafes and libraries following planned cuts to children’s services, a councillor has warned.
Speaking at last night’s (Monday) meeting of Wycombe District Council (WDC), Cllr Khalil Ahmed (Lab, Disraeli) slammed the proposed cuts as 'ill-considered and unprofessional'.
And, during the member’s questions session, he demanded to know whether the scheme, which is led by Buckinghamshire County Council (BCC) was backed by the leader of WDC, Cllr Katrina Wood (Con,Tylers Green and Loudwater).
Cllr Ahmed said: “BCC proposes to replace all its children’s centres and other support for children and young people with a programme to be run from nine hubs.
“The staff of the hubs will interview vulnerable children, young people and their families in the families’ homes, local cafes and libraries.
“At the same time, BCC is cutting the budget for these services by £3.3m and more savings will come from selling or leasing the buildings currently used by the children’s centres.
“These proposals will put our vulnerable children and young people even more at risk from abuse, neglect and ill-health – these proposals are ill-considered and unprofessional.”
Responding, Cllr Wood tried to defend the scheme, claiming it could offer a ‘range of possibilities’ for social workers to meet with vulnerable people, including public spaces.
She added some of these might be more effective in establishing relationships than more formal settings.
But Cllr Ahmed hit back, saying the plan was based on ‘the belief residents will take more responsibility in meeting their own needs’.
He continued: “It’s ridiculous to ask a five-year-old in a wheelchair to take greater responsibility.”
Earlier in the meeting Cllr Wood had also been tackled over the same issue by Cllr Matt Knight (East Wycombe Independent Party, Micklefield).
Councillors were reminded by Cllr Jean Teesdale (Con, Chiltern Rise), who is also the BCC deputy cabinet member for children's services that consultation on changes to children’s services runs until Monday, October 16.
Cllr Wood also faced a grilling from Cllr Lesley Clarke (Con, Abbey) over the council’s digital first initiative, claiming it was pointless while elected councillors regularly struggled with unreliable council IT systems.
Cllr Wood responded by saying she personally did not experience issues, but that old IT equipment was an issue.
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