Child protection is top priority, says cuts councillor

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THE man in charge of cutting the Sure Start budget has insisted that child protection will not be compromised.

Councillor Roy Perry, Hampshire County Council’s leader for children’s services, last month cut £6m from the council’s £17m Sure Start centre budget.

No centres will close and the council has stressed there will be no reduction in front-line services with the savings coming from reductions in management and administration costs.

Councillor Perry said safeguarding children was always his top priority.

He said: ‘The decisions I took in respect of children’s centres last week, on the clear advice of the director of children’s services, do not represent a risk to children.

‘There is no doubt that a dimension of what children’s centres do in the support of more vulnerable families has become an important component of the network of services to help in the general safeguarding of the wellbeing of children.

‘That contribution has been welcomed and will be sustained because the centres will retain a complete reach across the whole of the county and because the core family support staff group is not being reduced at all – the full complement of about 120 family support workers will remain across Hampshire.

‘I am confident there will continue to be high levels of management supervision of front-line staff so there are early indications of any concerns about the wellbeing of children.’

But Kate Reynolds, one of the campaigners against the cuts, has questioned whether the loss of managers will mean staff are spread too thinly which may lead to child protection issues.

She said: ‘I know of parents who have found courage to leave violent, abusive relationships through the relationships and support of friends found at Sure Start centres.

‘I know that a strained social care system has referred less serious cases back to Sure Start – Sure Start is a form of child protection, for whilst the “what if?” and “thankfully this didn’t happen” situations are hard, possibly impossible to quantify, they do exist and have to be considered.

‘In the future there is a real risk that the “what if?” answer is more a response to “how did we let this happen?”.’

dren will be appropriately acted upon including offering direct support to families. In addition to this staff will continue to be able to access training in child protection.’