A charity providing therapy and activities to 615 Northamptonshire people has urged the county council to rethink plans to terminate its contract in a bid to plug its budget black hole.
Last month, Northamptonshire County Council (NCC) revealed its intention to axe its “supporting services” contract, currently provided by the charity Service Six and its partners Northampton Women’s Aid (NWA), Northamptonshire Association of Youth Clubs (NAYC) and Family Action.
Service Six received notice from the county council on December 23 that its contracted services will terminate on March 31.
The move will see the end of projects tackling anti-social behaviour and domestic abuse, as well family therapy sessions and counselling, which the charity has been supplying since July 2014.
In a desperate bid chief executive for Service Six, Jane Deamer, has urged the council to consider simply re-negotatiating the terms of the contract rather than axing it completely.
She said: “The current situation is that the supported services contract has in place, teams who have become established, who deliver high quality services to the most in need in our community, who are well trained and flexible.
“The decommissioning of the service will result in NCC losing these valuable assets.
“We would urge the council to reconsider this decision and enter into a dialogue with us to look at ways to re-configure the contract.
“We could pro-actively support NCC in considering lower cost needs-led solutions with those at the heart of the need. In this way NCC would not incur further costs on decommissioning and re-commissioning services.”
However the charity boss sought to assure its service users that it is committed to providing much of its services beyond March 2016, even if the contract is terminated.
The decision is yet to be ratified by the county council’s cabinet, which is currently trying to claw back a £17.5 million overspend in the 2015/16 financial year.
Latest figures suggest the council still needs to find another £8.7 million worth of savings before the end of the financial year.
The contract with Service Six was worth more than £10 million when it was agreed back in 2014 and was supposed to run until 2018.
“We’re committed to completing their services beyond March 2016 and will keep them up to date with developments,” said Ms Deamer.
“We currently have 615 active service users and initially project that over 50 of those will need our services after county council funding ceases.”
The charity also has a list of more than 190 people waiting to use its services, of which 74 per cent are under 18.
Ms Deamer added: “We won’t know the full implications until the final decision on budget cuts are ratified by the county council in February but in the meantime our services are running as usual and we of course remain committed to supporting and improving the lives of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged members of the community here in the county.”
A Service Six spokeswoman said all its contracts have been “successfully delivered with substantial targets exceeded,” since it first started carrying out work for the council in 2007.
The charity provides a wide range of free support, therapy, information and activity services within the county of Northamptonshire (except Kettering) for children, young people, adults and families,
It is funded by local authorities such as Northamptonshire County Council and East Northamptonshire Council, NHS including Nene Clinical Commissioning and Northamptonshire Health Foundation Trust (NHFT) — as well as a large number of local, regional and national trusts, foundations, businesses and grant givers including the Big Lottery Fund.
The county council is currently working towards a model where around 95 per cent of its services are delivered by accountable mutual companies, in what is being described as its “Next Generation” model.
But Ms Deamer says the council cannot scrap vital services in the process.
“After contract referral routes are closed, interventions cease, those with the little have even less and NCC focuses all its attention on the ‘Next Generation Strategy,’ where is the ‘Generation Today Strategy’ targeted at those who are in danger of being abandoned by their local authority?”
A spokesman for Northamptonshire County Council, said: “As part of our budget proposals for 2016/17, we are consulting with all relevant stakeholders to gather people’s views before a final decision in made by Cabinet in February.
“People can take part in the consultation by visiting www.northamptonshire.gov.uk/draftbudget. The consultation closes on Tuesday 19th January.”