"I have long argued that the giving of offence, and even hate speech, should be a moral matter but not a matter for the criminal law. That is as true on the football pitch as on the streets. We should always challenge racism. We should also always challenge attacks on liberties in the guise of faux antiracism." Kenan Malik

Funding cuts hit Norfolk children

Voluntary groups and organisations caring for some of Norfolk’s most vulnerable young people have lost their funding as social services cuts £1m from children’s services.

In December the EDP revealed 28 groups, who received £2.4m a year between them, had been told they must re-tender for a share of £1.4m.

County councillors have agreed to cut the amount they spend on voluntary sector support because a freeze in both government grants and council tax is expected next year.

Last night it emerged many groups have now been told their bids have been unsuccessful, while letters marked strictly confidential say the council has decided to channel its funding to a small number of “main charities”.

GFS Platform Great Yarmouth works with young mothers and mums-to-be around the town, with a nursery providing places for 38 children.

Its funding from children’s services will not be renewed after April. Strategy and development manager Sally Rozier said: “The funding cut will affect 11 children whose parents could not otherwise afford childcare and who will lose their full-time day care places at the end of April.

“The cutbacks could also result in the loss of one member of staff which will have a knock-on effect on the number of children the nursery can offer places to.”

Yarmouth-based Gyros – which supports the families of migrant workers – has been told it will lose its entire funding of £35,000.

Manager Des McKeating said: “We will no longer provide activities for children who are new to the UK.

“The funding has allowed us to do preventative work with families and children – preventative in terms of preventing homelessness, missed schooling, poverty and ensuring that families access all services that they need and that they can integrate into the community. Much of this work focussing on children and families will be lost.”

Yarmouth and District Homestart has also been told its entire funding was being withdrawn.

King’s Lynn-based West Norfolk Dyspraxia Group, which provides a children’s club for up to 70 young people with co-ordination problems, will be losing the £35,000 it receives from the county council.

“It’s very sad for everybody, we’re very disappointed with the decision,” said project administrator Sheila Clarke.

Asperger East Anglia, which is also believed to be among those whose funding was at risk, said it would not comment until after it had had “a debrief” from social services.

Ali Hall, central services manager at Norwich-based Leeway, which provides help and support for women and children affected by domestic abuse, said they had been successful in the re-tendering process.

Norfolk County Council said it could not provide details of which groups’ funding would be cut because of “commercial sensitivities”.

Shelagh Hutson, cabinet member for children’s services, said: “We currently buy in £14m of services from the voluntary sector and need to reduce this to £13m due to the tight budget we face in 2010/11, brought about by the dire national financial climate and the increased costs of protecting the county’s most vulnerable children.

“We invited the organisations that delivered 69 of these voluntary sector contracts, currently worth £2.4m, to tender for new contracts totalling £1.4m as part of an open tender process.”

The county’s children and young people’s trust board has now decided which groups’ funding will be continued and has written to the organisations involved to let them know.

“Some organisations will not have been successful and some will have seen their funding levels reduced,” said Mrs Hutson. “We recognise that this will be a difficult time for these organisations, who like the private and public sector, will have to look at more efficient ways of working in these tough economic times.

“However, we need to ensure we are getting the best value for money for Norfolk’s taxpayers and the best outcomes for Norfolk’s children and young people.”



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