Thursday, 31 January 2008




Gladstone House to close with loss of 67 staff: YJB blames council

Posted: 11 January 2008

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.

Closure concerns

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.”


No comments:




Council leader Warren Bradley said that some individual councillors’ behaviour was “appalling” and not fitting of a democratic society.




Roger: This is not a good report for us is it Warren?
Fireman:Well Roger we’ve got to put it into perspective really haven’t we and remember where Liverpool was and that’s not thinking back 10 years. Liverpool has come an awful long way. The people of Liverpool were asking for lower Council Tax and the Liberal Democrats have delivered that and they also wanted better services and you look at the services that are now delivered by Liverpool City Council. If we look at the most vulnerable either elderly or the Children’s Services the social care we are now delivering at a level that Liverpool has never delivered before. We also look at the bread and butter your schools, your sports centres, your libraries, One Stop Shops in communities, our parks, we’ve got 13 green flag parks. It’s like a new home to me when you get an old dilapidated derelict building you’ve got to bring it up to a standard and I think Liverpool City Council under the Liberal Democrats have certainly done that and I am certain if we did a survey of people in the City do you want Liverpool City Council to sit on £20m worth of reserves or do you want the City Council delivering front line services that affect the most vulnerable and people’s lives in the City. I think that they would vote with their feet and say that we support the policies of Liverpool City Council. We’ve got to look at the financial regulations put in by Government and if you want my opinion about this Roger it is purely political.
Roger: Well come on, you know the Audit Commission is not a political body
Fireman: Well with respect Roger and I would beg to differ on that
Roger: Well how can it be a political, it’s an independent organisation?
Fireman: We can say everything is independent to a certain extent but you know you look at what we’ve got at the moment in Liverpool and we’re delivering top quality services.
Roger: But the problem with this is that you’ve got an overall score rating of 2 which was adequate performance into 05, overall score in 06 was 2 which is adequate performance.
This year it is down to 1 below minimum requirements inadequate performance.
Fireman: Based around financial regulations…
Roger: Yes I’m talking about the financial…..
Fireman: Laid down by government. I mean that’s what you’ve got to remember. Don’t try and muddy the waters and say oh this is about Liverpool City Council and their overall performance. It’s not. You look at the issue that we’ve done about achievements. Liverpool scoring 3-4 on achievement at the moment through the Audit Commission.
Roger: I didn’t know that.
(EDs: Pitiful, just pitiful.)
Fireman: And we do seem to always go to the negatives when we’re looking for something like this.
Roger: The District Auditor was pretty negative about you wasn’t he and…
Fireman: No, I have got to say Roger I would love to have £50m in reserves. I would also love not to have to put additions of £7m into adult social care and £2-3m into children’s social care. The facts are we have got to do that because of the pressures that are on Liverpool at the moment.
Roger: So are other Councils….
Fireman: I’m not willing as Leader of this Council to take away care to the most vulnerable to allow it to sit in reserve. I am not willing to do that and I will go to the stake on that the people of the City. Liverpool now is only one of a handful of Councils up and down the country that is providing moderate care to the most vulnerable people in the City. Now to give people an idea of what moderate care is that is home care. These people who’ve got no family to support them and require a visit in the morning or a visit in the evening to make sure they’re ok to help them to take the pills, to make sure that they’ve got the food. Most Councils up and down this country have removed that care. Liverpool City Council is still allowing our most vulnerable people our sort of care. Now is that wrong, is that wrong?
Roger: Now no one would argue that’s wrong but everyone. But many people are affected by housing. Housing is really poor isn’t it. I mean you are so poor you’ve had to hand it over to a different group to run it.
Fireman: Well with respect Roger, with respect, you’ve got to know what the Housing Corporation have done and in partnership with the Government again it’s easy to say it’s the Council, in partnership with the Government we’ve tackled head on through the Pathfinder areas of the inner core of the City some of the housing inefficiencies of the City. That hasn’t happened over the last five years that’s happened over 30 or 40 years. The problems in Norris Green in housing were prevalent 30 or 40 years ago and weren’t tackled. As an Authority we’ve challenged what wasn’t tackled and we’ve challenged it head on and I opened a couple of weeks ago with Flo Clucas and Marilyn Fielding with Cobalt Housing the first phase of Norris Green. We’ve transformed that area and its got houses for sale and social housing in Norris Green that people are seeking to live in now. We’ve got in a core Edge Hill, Kensington, Kirkdale the same issues that have been there for 30 or 40 years that we’re tackling now hand in hand with the Government. I’m not taking the credit for it and the Government isn’t. We’ve got a schools’ programme that is second to none. Liverpool’s young people are now achieving at the national average. I want it higher than national average to give new opportunity but again I’ll say I’m not going to suit accountants’ financial regulations in London and leave £millions sitting in reserve while we have still got the challenges Liverpool has got and I think people you know.
Roger: Do you think it was a mistake to keep Council Tax down or freeze it over the past few years?
Fireman: Well isn’t it ironic Roger how last week John Healey said how Liverpool is charging £101 a head...
Roger: Because its inefficiencies….
Fireman: Well we have taken £150m worth of inefficiencies out of our budget over the last 10 years. We’ve kept Council tax down which is exactly what Government policy is and is exactly what John Healey is saying. Councillor Joe Anderson is saying something completely different to the people of Liverpool that he will put taxes up to build reserves to put in reserve well again this administration this Lib Dem administration is not going to tax for the sake of taxing to leave money sitting in reserve. We will build up the reserves over a period of years and then we will be able to tackle some of the other issues that we’ve got to do. We recognise the health inequalities. To improve health inequalities we’ve got to have a real stable economy offering real opportunity and raising the aspirations in them poorer communities. You cannot do that leaving millions and millions of pounds laying in reserves and this administration will continue the robust financial management that we’ve done. We’ll carry on delivering…
Roger: If it was that robust we wouldn’t have this problem of £20m overdrawn on Capital of Culture.
Fireman: Roger, lets put things into hindsight. We are still delivering front line services. We are still…
Roger: It’s about £20m overall that we’re short this year – now that’s not robust management
Fireman: But Roger we are going through a budget setting process. Every Local Authority up and down the country is in the same process as us. I remember reading about Wirral being £50m short. Other Local Authorities. I meet the core city leaders who are £40-£50m short exactly the same as Liverpool . And let’s not forget I haven’t come on here to knock the Government I’ve come on here to say that I believe we’ve got a robust financial programme in place that is going to deal with the shortfall. We’ve delivered year on year but I’ll say again I am not going to allow millions and millions of pounds to lay in reserve. Cut front line services to the most vulnerable and then say that’s acceptable. Nor as Leader of this Council am I going to allow Council Tax to go through the roof again which will drive the inability to bring further investment into this City. While the Lib Dems have been in control we’ve brought Council Tax down, we’ve brought renewed confidence and we’ve brought real investment that will bring opportunities to the most vulnerable and I think that is the most important and I think the people of this City will stand full square with us on that. I’m proud of what we’ve delivered in this City over the last 10 years and Capital of Culture is part of that."