York Labour’s new children’s services spokesperson, Councillor Fiona Fitzpatrick, has expressed serious concerns over current and projected overspending in children’s services by the City of York Council. The current situation, she has said, poses serious questions about how these services will be maintained.
An expected 2018-19 year end overspend at The Glen (York’s short breaks centre for disabled children) of £400,000 as well as a new request for an extra £250,000 for York’s new specialist centre for disabled children have brought added focus to the department’s bottom line. Furthermore, an expected shortfall of £2m for special educational needs (SEN) in 2019-20 is the greatest concern and means there could be even more pressure to cut costs.
Cllr Fitzpatrick said: “There are some huge challenges for Children’s Services in ensuring support services are maintained, while also balancing the budget. We await year end figures but at the end of the third quarter in 2018-19 there was a combined overspend of almost £1.9m across social work and education and skills services, while pressures of £2m are expected in this financial year due to a rise in demand for special educational needs support.
“The budget in February added an extra £800k to partially meet pressures in social work and looked after children, but there is real trouble down the road if all of these issues are not addressed. My concern is cutbacks to services will be made to address these overspends, but go under the radar. It is essential that SEN support is there for those children who need extra support now and in the future.
“I will be speaking with officers in the coming weeks to learn more about how they intend to meet this challenge, but for now I remain extremely concerned about whether or not the previous administration budgeted sufficiently in February for these pressures”.
Cllr. Fitzpatrick added that there was no question about whether or not to approve the extra budget for the planned specialist disabled children’s centre, and that Labour supported the decision made this week to do this, in order to ensure the new Centre is delivered.