LIVERPOOL CITY COUNCIL PLAN TO SACK 67 MEMBERS OF CHILDREN'S SERVICES STAFF, TO PAY FOR THE £230,000 GIVEN TO JASON HARBARROW TO KEEP HIS MOUTH SHUT
FROM COMMUNITY CARE ON LINE
writes Caroline Lovell
A secure children’s home in Liverpool will close in March over a £1m funding issue between Liverpool Council, the Youth Justice Board, and Ofsted.
Last week, compulsory redundancy notices were issued to 67 staff at Gladstone House secure children’s home in Fazakerley after the YJB decided not to renew its contract because of increased annual rates.
The secure unit opened in 1981 and can accommodate 18 young men from the North West in two units, Gladstone and Norris, but it subsequently lowered its operating capacity to 16 beds.
In 2007, Ofsted recommended that the council employed extra staff so that there were two members of staff to every child at the 24-hour facility, a council spokesperson said. The council also decided to increase its capacity to 18 beds.
To meet these two requirements, the council told the YJB last September they would have to increase annual rates by an additional £1m because of “difficulties over funding”.
But the YJB, which purchases places for children and young people in custody at secure children’s homes in England and Wales, said that after careful consideration it decided not to renew its contract because the new annual rates exceeded other local authority prices in the area.
“We regret that Liverpool City Council has taken this decision,” said an YJB spokesman.
The Secure Accommodation Network, which represents and promotes the work of secure children's homes in England and Wales, is concerned that another home has closed.
Jon Banwell, chair of SAN, said that in recent years the number of secure children's homes has fallen from 31 to 20 leaving a “patchy picture” across the country where some areas are left without provision for very complex and vulnerable young people. SAN is urging the government to develop a national strategy for secure care to prevent further closures.
The Department for Children, Schools and Families are currently carrying out research, through Deloitte, to review the local authority demand for welfare beds in secure children’s homes.
Gladstone House closure
Liverpool City Council has announced the closure of Gladstone House secure unit on or before March 31 st 2008 following its failure to get an extension to its current Contract with the Youth Justice Board.
SAN is yet again concerned about the closure of another Secure Children's home and the lack of a National strategy for secure care despite its repeated calls for one to be developed. Without the development of the strategy SAN fears that there will be further closures. This issue should also be considered , in SAN' s view, by the newly created Joint Youth Justice Unit as the closures are directly impacting on the quality of care available for those young people who have to be secured.
Union outrage over plan to close Liverpool children’s home
ANGRY union protesters chanted with banners outside a full council meeting last night against staff losing their jobs.
The Joint Trade Union Committee (JTUC) crowded outside Liverpool Town Hall blaming the cost of Capital of Culture activities for 67 staff at a children’s home facing compulsory redundancy.
The JTUC claims the difference between offering the staff voluntary severance and redundancy is around £230,000 – the same amount given as a pay-off to former Culture Company chief executive Jason Harborow.
A JTUC spokesman said: “People are effectively being sacked because of the incompetence and wastage of this council.”
The redundancies follow the council’s decision to close Gladstone House, an 18-bed secure home in Fazakerley.
Officials blamed rising costs, empty beds and overspends of £1m a year for their decision.
Funded by the Youth Justice Board for England (YJB), the board refused to renew the funding contract and the council said it could therefore “not justify subsidising a centre for children from outside the area”.
Labour spokesperson for children’s services, Cllr Jane Corbett, said the council was “shortsighted” for closing an excellent facility with dedicated highly trained staff.
She said: “There have been no guarantees how many staff will be redeployed.
“They haven’t been offered voluntary severance like they should have been, as only a few are likely to be offered suitable positions elsewhere.
“It is shortsighted to close Gladstone House after the new chair of the YJB only recently said young offenders should be placed in local authority secure homes where the outcomes are better than other options.”
Cllr Corbett argues the YJB failed to sign a new funding contract because Live rpool council had included two welfare beds into the contract, pushing costs up from £597.50 per night per bed for 16 beds up to £708 per night, per bed for all 18 beds.
The YJB decided funding 18 beds instead of 16 would cost them an additional £1m.
Cllr Corbett said: “Liverpool City Council should have done more to attract neighbouring local authorities to use the welfare beds.
“Gladstone House is used by young males from Liverpool and Merseyside, and with such big problems of drug crime and gangs in north Liverpool I can’t believe we are planning to close one of the best homes in the country.”
Cllr Corbett submitted a list of questions surrounding the clos- ure at a meeting of the Children’s Services Select Committee.
In their response finance and legal services at Liverpool council blamed declining occupancy levels of the welfare beds from 89% in 2004/5 to 22% in 2007/8, with the council budget relying on the income they generate.
It says efforts were made to promote Gladstone’s facilities but the trend continued.
In response to the question “If the council were not facing such a grave financial crisis would Gladstone House be closing at this time?” the answer reads “There are other budget pressures in social care services for children and action is being taken to address all of these.”