Preparations underway for the future of children's services in Cumbria

·3-min read
Cumbria is set to be split into two new council areas: Cumberland and Westmorland & Furness
Cumbria is set to be split into two new council areas: Cumberland and Westmorland & Furness

COUNCILLORS have been given an update on the work to prepare children’s services for local government reorganisation, which will see the existing county and borough councils abolished in 2023.

Children and family services are currently handled by Cumbria County Council but new arrangements will need to be made in time for Vesting Day – April 1, 2023 when two new unitary councils replace the existing seven.

Dan Barton, the county’s assistant director for education and skills gave an update on the work to prepare for this to councillors at Cumbria House on Tuesday.

Mr Barton said: “We’ve completed our day one requirements, understanding what it is we need to put in place for day one, April of next year.

Bosses of the county’s children and young people’s services are now in the design phase, preparing for the possibility of disaggregation.

“How do the structures work? How do you split the funding and how do you recruit people into those new teams in time?”

Disaggregation of county wide services would see them split in two and handled separately by the Cumberland Council in its patch of Carlisle, Allerdale and Copeland and Westmorland & Furness Council on its patch of Eden, South Lakeland and Barrow-in-Furness.

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Mr Barton said: “It’s not just about structures and budgets, it’s about all of those support structures around IT, legal services and all of the things that help to facilitate a safe and positively working team.”

He noted that disaggregation is the starting point for most services, “but for a small number of services where there is a strong rationale.

“Often around the fact that a service might be delivered in partnership or where there are some risks to future delivery, caused by either, a very strong financial business case or the risk of losing expertise in the area.

“We’re putting forward some option appraisals around a different way of deliverance, alternative delivery models. That work is underway, the board has seen and signed off at least five of those.”

“We’re keen to develop relationships with the new shadow members, working of course towards a coherent system. It’s more than just the councils, everybody needs to understand what’s about to happen.”

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Whether services are split or handled county-wide through cross partnership will be a political decision for the new Shadow Authorities.

Services for children and families delivered by the county council include education, social care, youth support, early help, children’s centres and the youth offending service.

Part of the council’s work involves including children and young people in the development of services designed for them.

When asked how young people feel about the council overhaul, Fiona Musgrave, assistant director for integration and partnerships said that three issues were raised by young people the most.

Ms Musgrave said that young people were worried about: “Transport to school, we’ve got a lot of children who head from Carlisle to Penrith, across the lines of the new authorities.

“The other one was emotional health and wellbeing and mental health which would expect to see.

“The other was a more general issue about where children had a social worker or had a worker who were badged Carlisle and Eden, what that would look like going forward.”

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