Parents’ fears over ‘vital’ services for youngsters after Central Bedfordshire cuts funding

MBTC-12-03-14- Autism Bedfordshire.'b14-144''Autism Bedfordshire has been awarded nearly �100,000 from Children In Need.'Childrens Services Team,  Liz McTernan,  Kate Osborne, Peter Tysoe and Chris Stelling. PNL-141203-121723001
MBTC-12-03-14- Autism Bedfordshire.'b14-144''Autism Bedfordshire has been awarded nearly �100,000 from Children In Need.'Childrens Services Team, Liz McTernan, Kate Osborne, Peter Tysoe and Chris Stelling. PNL-141203-121723001

Parents of children with special needs in Chronicle country fear their youngsters could lose out on vital services after Central Bedfordshire Council changed its funding policy.

Funding to organisations such as Autism Bedfordshire and the Families United Network were cut in October.

One parent, whose child uses the Saturday morning activity group at Ivel Valley Special school in Biggleswade supplied by Autism Bedfordshire, said the council didn’t understand the ramifications of their decision.

Cuts in the Special Grants Programme were made by the council in October.

Under the cuts:

>Autism Beds has a reduction from £35k to £17.5k

>Bedford and District Cerebral Palsy has a reduction from £35k to £17.5k

>Family United Network has a reduction from £30k to £15k

In a letter to parents, Autism Bedfordshire said: “As you may be aware, Central Bedfordshire Council are now changing the way they fund services for children with disabilities.

“The local authority has stated that; Future funding will be for the individual child or young person and be provided by a personal budget, direct payment or spot purchasing.

“Autism Bedfordshire have always subsidised services through our fundraising (grants/trusts) and we have been grateful to Central Bedfordshire Council for their 40% contribution. However, this has been reduced over a number of years and now with no Central Bedfordshire funding coming directly to us we will need to pass on closer to the true costs to families.

“For example, it costs Autism Bedfordshire £1,000 per child per week at the summer activity scheme. We aim to secure 50% of this through our fundraising but now need to pass on the remaining cost to families. I have attached advance notice of our 2019 summer scheme provision so that families have more time to look into possible funding support if they wish to access our service. (Dates are provisional and will be confirmed once venues are secured).

In October 2018 Central Bedfordshire Council took the decision to not commit to the Specific Grants Programme that we were told we could apply to in order to ensure stability of our services, instead they decided on £5,000 SLA instead of £17,500. This came with no warning and no time for us to plan around – had we received confirmation of their strategy earlier, we would have had more time to manage any changes with you.

“They have also confirmed that they will longer fund Autism Bedfordshire through the usual route of a Service Level Agreement and they have informed us “Future funding will be for the individual child or young person and be provided by a personal budget, direct payment or spot purchasing”.”

The Families United Network has received a grant from Luton Borough Council after its funding was reduced by CBC.

Potton Independent councillor Adam Zerny said: “A few weeks ago, CBC admitted to councillors that one local charity, Family United Network (FUN), was extremely upset about CBC funding changes proposed for the 2019/20 financial year. FUN, which provides a number of services including short breaks, trips, training and youth clubs, was now in danger of closure, putting at risk vital support for 65 children in Central Beds.

“CBC assured councillors “Historically, the council has provided grants directly to organisations like FUN to provide services to Central Bedfordshire families. Whilst there has been no reduction in the Council’s funding for such services, the way in which we provide the funding is changing, in line with national changes to children’s services”

“It also insisted “We have been discussing this change with the organisations concerned (including FUN) for over two years now”.

“But this didn’t tell the full story

“Autism Beds, a charity which provides training, support and sessions for adults and children, also faces similar cuts in funding.

“The charity currently receives 40% of its funding from CBC, is at risk of having to cut services due to the changes being proposed through CBC’s proposals regarding personal budgets.

“CBC has insisting it had been working closely with charities for two years and had not cut funding, Autism Beds says it was told of a £12,500 drop in funding from CBC only in October of this year.

“I have told CBC I believe it should restore full grants for the coming year to the charities involved and commit to work closely with the charities in the coming weeks to ensure it understands what funding is required to keep them going in future years.”

A council spokesperson said: “We recognise that the phased introduction of a new funding model for short breaks is causing concern for parents and for organisations such as Autism Bedfordshire, the Families United Network and the Cerebral Palsy Society. Our intention has not been to reduce our overall funding for the services but to change the way money is allocated.

“In line with national legislation, we’ve been proposing to introduce personal budgets, which are designed to give families choice about how to spend the money to support their child.

“However, the voluntary sector is critical to the way in which Bedfordshire children and families are supported. So we are continuing to explore new ways of working with all organisations concerned, to alleviate their pressures and preserve their highly valued services.”