by Don Mort
A specialist social work service that has helped hundreds of families affected by domestic abuse could be axed as the council seeks to balance its budget.
Caring Dads has helped more than 700 men address abusive behaviour and build relationships with their children since being set up in 2014 at Leeds City Council.
The council would save £230,000 if it scraps the service as part of widespread cuts to plug a £162m budget shortfall.
The service is designed for men who accept they have been abusive towards their partners or children and encourages them to think about their own childhood experiences.
Caring Dads is staffed by the equivalent of 5.5 full-time workers, although Leeds City Council said not all the posts were currently filled.
A council spokesperson said: “The financial pressures on the council, with a budget gap of £162.8m over the next three years, mean that a range of highly-valued services are the subject of review and this reflects just how difficult a position we are in.
“We are currently consulting with trade unions and are committed to engaging with staff as proposals are developed. We wish to stress that the review of the services is in no way a reflection on the work or effectiveness of the team at Caring Dads.”
Caring Dads, which has worked with 718 men in Leeds, was based on a model developed in Canada that has since been adopted around the world.
The council’s revenue savings report said. “This evidence-based programme is informed by research which indicates that men are more likely to engage with services to address their behaviour if they think it will benefit their relationship with their children.
“Whilst there is obvious value in the Caring Dads workstream, it is felt that support can be provided which will allow activity to support this particular cohort of service users to be delivered using existing resources.”
Female partners and children are offered domestic violence support as part of the programme as men’s behaviour is monitored over 17 weeks.
The service does not work with men with a history of sexual offending against children or vulnerable adults, or those whose substance misuse makes them unsuitable for the scheme.
Ceasing the Caring Dads service is proposed as part of the council’s 2024/25 budget.
Building sales and closures – including Pudsey Civic Hall – parking charges and job losses are being proposed as the council seeks to balance its budget.
Read more on council cuts in WLD’s Cutswatch series.