Government ‘failing young people’ says local group

It has been claimed that budget cuts are likely to lead to increased inequality.

Government policies are causing widespread poverty and are likely to hit those who are most in need, according to a local pressure group.

West Midlands Social Work Action Network (SWAN) claims that the government’s policies of austerity are leading to a triple dip recession and are now causing profound and enduring damage to the lives of our children, their families and communities in Birmingham. They say that budget cuts to council services for children and young people will intensify the hardships and stress experienced by many vulnerable children and families at a time of their greatest need.

Birmingham city council leader Council Sir Albert Bore has stated that the most vulnerable members of the community will be protected from further cuts to council services in 2013-14. However, SWAN believe that cuts have fallen disproportionately and painfully on the city’s Childrens and Young Persons budget.

Amongst other cuts which are taking place the  Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service budget is to be cut by two thirds over two years, leading to a total budget cut of £2.86 million over two years, and making highly trained and qualified staff redundant.

Commenting on these proposed cuts to CAMHS, the clinical director of the Birmingham Children’s Hospital’s Matthew Jenkins has said: “The mark of a civilised society is that it does protect and support the most vulnerable members of that society.

“I think that if we make these cuts in full, then we’re going to be failing to do that and we’re going to be failing the families and children who need those services so badly.”

SWAN is also highly critical of cuts in funding which will affect the voluntary sector, where funding a range of children’s services over a two year period is to be slashed by some £8.7 million.

They claim that high levels of child poverty in the city have intensified during the last two years and that the impacts of the government’s welfare reforms have yet to take full effect on families but will cause further significant financial hardship and stress when they do. The NSPPC recently stated, “Research shows that children who grow up in poverty can be more vulnerable to some forms of maltreatment, particularly neglect and physical abuse.  They also have an increased risk of adverse experiences and negative outcomes, both in the short and long term.”

SWAN conclude that, “The number of young people is set to grow in total and as a proportion of the population of Birmingham. These year on year cuts occur at the point of growing need as a result of demographic changes and increasing stress on poor families which contributes to a growing demand for services.”

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