Council to consider reducing holiday scheme for disabled Northamptonshire children

Northamptonshire County Council is set to consult on whether to reduce holiday breaks for disabled children.
Northamptonshire County Council is set to consult on whether to reduce holiday breaks for disabled children.

Cash-strapped Northamptonshire County Council is to launch a consultation on the holidays it provides for disabled children in a bid to save money.

Next week, the authority's cabinet is due to discuss a proposed review of residential and short breaks for children with special educational needs and disabilities.

Councillors will be asked to agree to hold a public consultation on the future model for the service, which currently provides day, evening, overnight and weekend respite breaks for children with complex needs at the cost of £2.6 million a year.

These short breaks are delivered through holiday clubs, after-school clubs, Saturday clubs, youth clubs, a specialist sitting service providing qualified childminders for disabled children and residential short breaks.

The short breaks service is jointly funded by Northamptonshire County Council and both Nene and Corby Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), and delivered by Northamptonshire Healthcare Foundation Trust.

But the CCG has announced its intentions to withdraw its £1 million a year funding for the scheme as of next year, meaning the review will look at the possibility of reducing the service before new contracts are awarded.

County council deputy leader and cabinet member for children’s services Councillor Matthew Golby (Con, Duston West and St Crispin) said: “Short breaks for disabled children are well recognised to be a vital service which help families with disabled children to lead ordinary lives.

“We are committed to ensuring children and young people with disabilities can access and enjoy all the services and settings in their community that their non-disabled peers do.

“This review is important in order to ensure continued provision that meets the needs of children and young people and their families now and in the future.

“We are looking to hold a public consultation on how the service might look in the future and I would encourage young people and families to take part in order to help us shape the services delivered for the future.”

However, the cabinet report set to be discussed by the authority next week concedes that the council cannot continue to fund its short breaks scheme at the same level.

Leader of the county council opposition, Councillor Bob Scott (Lab, Lloyds) said the paper comes as little surprise.

He said: "This is the sort of thing we have been anticipating.

"If the administration had listened to us over the last six or seven years, if they had listened to their own scrutiny committee, who pleaded with them to increase council tax, this cliff edge would not be quite so steep."

If the consultation is approved by cabinet, an online consultation will begin later this month alongside a series of focus groups and open meetings for people to give their feedback.

Cabinet will discuss the proposal at a meeting on Thursday, October 19.