Government points axe at kids’ services

Critical front-line council staff face losing their jobs after being issued with a 90-day consultation on redundancy, the GMB union has warned.

Council workers at the Contact and Escort Team, which provides a “safe and secure service for looked-after children” face the axe following the announcement.

Union representatives are meeting 36 concerned staff with a view to putting forward alternative proposals to protect jobs and maintain the service.

The devastating blow to vulnerable children and workers came on top of 430 jobs being earmarked for the scrapheap at the Connexions branch of the integrated youth support services in Birmingham, which helps young people back into work education and training.

GMB West Midlands regional organiser Roger Jenkins put the blame squarely at the feet of the Con-Dem government’s reduction in funding for local councils.

“We are in this position due to reduced government funding,” he said.

“This service, now under threat, provides a safe and secure service for looked-after children, transporting them to settings/venues to have supervised contacts with their families.”

The potential cuts look set to embarrass council employers after the council’s political head of children’s social care councillor Len Clark acknowledged that “more needs to be done” to improve safeguarding of children in the city.

Mr Jenkins also revealed that Birmingham City Council contract’s out 32 per cent of children’s services to private firms.

He pointed out that the council could instead save money by not paying huge premiums to private contractors when those services could be carried out in-house.

“The in-house Contact and Escort are a team of caring professionals and are very passionate about the service. They build a bond with the children they undertake contacts for and see differences in the time they spend with their families and loved ones.

“The GMB is making people aware of how vital this service is and will try very hard to make sure this front-line service continues and, as the evidence states above, ‘more needs to be done’.”

A Birmingham City Council spokeswoman said: “As part of the legal consultation process, a section 188 notice was issued. This marks the beginning of the formal consultation process as required by law. No final decisions have yet been taken.”

Unison local government regional head Tony Rabaiotti said: “This is not the first cut in services that have directly impacted on young people.

“First a 25 per cent cut in Connextions and now this. Arguments from the council that these cuts will not hit front-line services are ridiculous.

“It will affect young people and council taxpayers in Birmingham.”