Decimation of vital Getset services will leave Somerset children in crisis

There must be a full review of services that offer support to children, young people and families across Somerset before the County Council takes any decision to make cuts, says UNISON today (Wednesday).

Somerset’s Cabinet is meeting today, UNISON is urging councillors to take a proper look at the impact of cuts to Getset, the Council’s early intervention service.

Earlier this month Somerset’s Scrutiny committee agreed  with the union that a report by the Council to justify the cuts is fundamentally flawed it its figures. The union believes that any decline in demand is due to the ending of self-referrals, and the bringing in of a more complex form that can only be completed by professionals. 

UNISON says the government should introduce a children’s social care precept, which would allow local authorities struggling to balance their budgets to raise council tax to spend on local children’s services. In 2015 the government gave English local authorities the power to increase council tax to pay for care services for adults.

Last month, Somerset County Council approved plans to axe 130 jobs, including 80 from the GetSet programme. UNISON, which represents staff who work for Getset, says there should be a full consultation on the proposals with staff and the local community before anything further happens.

Staff working in Getset in Somerset have expressed real concern about what could happen to the families they support if this service is removed.

A support worker said: “If the council goes ahead with its plans I’m truly worried that the future for children and families in Somerset will not only be unsafe, but could lead to a child coming to serious harm, or worse. The services we provide are a lifeline for families. They know that they can turn up without an appointment and that someone will be there for them.

“Being there within the community is so important. I’ve had families come through the door with no money for food, no heating, no electricity, and I can help there and then. I know we make a massive difference and the work prevents problems from growing. To take the service away makes me scared for all our families.”

South West UNISON organiser Tom Kennedy-Hughes said: “Clear questions have to be asked about the figures used in the Council’s report. They seem to be hiding the excellent and much-needed support Getset staff are providing to the most in need in our community.

“Evidence from the Department for Education shows the return on early years spending. For every £1 spent in early years support, approximately £8 is saved in the future. That’s because early preventive work stops the need for far more expensive crisis intervention in future. To strip this service on questionable data risks damaging a generation of children, and costing the public purse significantly more.

“Councillors must stop these cuts now, use their influence with Somerset MPs and persuade them to lobby the government for a new children’s social care precept similar to the one that cash-strapped councils can use to raise money for adult social care. This would help save Getset and the children who rely on its support to stay safe.”