Cuts: Service helping troubled families faces axe

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Leeds Civic Hall.

By Don Mort, local democracy reporter

A specialist therapy service helping some of the city’s most troubled families could be axed, raising fears of more children being taken into care.

Leeds City Council could save £330,000 by cutting its Multi-Systemic Therapy Child Abuse and Neglect team (MST-CAN) as part of widespread budget cuts at the authority.

Therapists provide intensive treatment over six to nine months for families with child protection concerns, also addressing trauma and substance misuse problems.

The service, designed to prevent children facing abuse and neglect ending up in the care system, is under review as the council faces a multi-million pound budget gap.

The council’s Children and Families scrutiny board was told the future of the service was out to consultation.

Coun Ryan Stephenson, Conservative member for Harewood, said cutting MST-CAN could cost more in the long term if it led to more youngsters in care.

He said: “The proposal is to cut a service that was set up in 2013 due to an increasing number of children coming into the social care system.

“It was decided to implement the MST-CAN model to keep some of those most complex children, who were experiencing abuse and neglect, together as families.”

Fiona Venner, executive member for children’s social care, said the council was not proposing to cut its wider MST services.

She said: “MST-CAN works with a very small number of families. It’s an unpalatable decision but it’s a decision we’ve put forward, that we see as necessary in order to make the savings we need to make, in the really awful context we are in.

“We have many other ways that we support families to prevent children coming into care.”

MST-CAN has the equivalent of 5.2 full-time staff, according to the council’s service review report.

Julie Longworth, director of children and families, said the council had no choice but to make savings. She said: “They are a small team team doing fantastic work. We would want to retain those staff. We want to retain their knowledge and expertise.”

Building sales, parking charges and job losses are being proposed as the council seeks to balance its budget.

Coun Jonathan Pryor, deputy council leader and executive member for economy, culture and education, said: “I think it demonstrates the dire position all local government is in.

“You end up cutting things that would save you money further down the line.”

WLD cutswatch

WLD has been chronicling council cuts for several years in our Cutswatch series.

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