Fears over plans to shut Portsmouth Harbour School's residential facility for vulnerable children

FEARS have been raised over the proposed closure of a city school's accommodation block for vulnerable children.

The Harbour School in Tipner, Portsmouth
The Harbour School in Tipner, Portsmouth

Harbour School, in Tipner, puts up six youngsters four nights a week to improve their involvement in education.

But the residential facility could be axed so more money can be used to help more disadvantaged children during the school day instead.

It follows a review by Portsmouth City Council which found a ‘need to focus resources to provide more intensive support for children with more complex needs.’

But campaigners say it’s a facility that’s helped to change lives for 47 years.

And they fear the changes could lead to more children going into care – which would cost the council even more money at a time when it’s desperately trying to make savings.

Lee Sprake, branch secretary of Portsmouth Unison, said: ‘This is another example of the short-sightedness of these government cuts agenda and this council’s implementation of them.

‘The vulnerable are paying the price now, but we will all be paying the price in the future, with professionals such as social workers having higher and higher workloads causing more and more pressure and the need for more out-of-city placements, and the extra costs that this entails. It just does not make sense to me.’

Portsmouth Lib Dem leader, Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, is also concerned by the plans.

In a letter to the council’s chief executive David Williams, he said: ‘If the Harbour School residential provision closes it seems to me that the council will save some money, but there is a real risk that more young people will end up in care if this provision is closed and end up costing the council much more money from the children’s budget.’

Cllr Vernon-Jackson added: ‘It’s a significant risk.’

Mike Stoneman, the council’s deputy director of children’s services said: ‘The Harbour School is consulting on a proposal of no longer offering residential stays at Harbour House at the end of the summer term.

‘Harbour House has provided a residential service four nights a week for a small number of children to help improve their engagement with education and their school attendance.

‘This proposal follows a review of the services in the city for children with social emotional and mental health difficulties. This review identified a need to focus resources to provide more intensive support for children with more complex needs.

‘The money spent on residential support for a small number of young people at Harbour School can be more effectively used developing the range of support available to a larger number of pupils during the school day.

‘The overall funding provided to the school from the council is not reducing. The school is working closely with those using Harbour House and their families to help them with the transition and to provide any necessary additional family support and transport to school.’