Category Archives: CYP

Children and Young People

What’s been happening, July 2018

Opposition’s “call in” of Suffolk County Council school transport cuts unsuccessful   On Tuesday 19 June, Suffolk County Council’s Cabinet voted to change the Home to School Transport policy so that only children travelling to their nearest school would receive free transport. The changes are due to be phased in from September 2019.

As you may be aware,  LibDem Councillors and their Green and Independent colleagues  have been opposed to this policy change since it was announced in September 2018. As was the Labour group. There has also been very vocal opposition from schools, parents, carers and parish councils across Suffolk.

All the opposition cross-party worked collaboratively to call in the decision to Suffolk’s Scrutiny, with Cllrs Otton and Page as the Lib Dem signatories.

The “call-in” was successful on three fronts:
1. Concern at the quality and reliability of the financial modelling;
2. Whether the Cabinet were fully informed of the role of the Consultation Institute;
3. Whether there was enough analysis of the experience of Essex County Council, who implemented a similar policy in 2013.

Unfortunately despite the considered opinions of really competent and well-qualified members of the public, the Conservative administration failed to recognise their own financial forecasts were flawed. The decision will therefore go ahead.

Major review of Suffolk Highways announced The new Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Highways, Cllr Mary Evans, has launched a major review of the way highways in Suffolk are maintained.

Areas due to be reviewed include:
• Existing policy which determines how resources are deployed, known as the Suffolk Highway Maintenance Operational Plan (HMOP);
• How the location of potholes on the road is considered alongside the width and depth, recognising the impact they can have on cyclists and motorcyclists;
• How utility companies coordinate roadworks and are held to account for their actions;
• How residents, councillors and businesses are informed about road repairs and how they can access information;
• Financial control and contract management;
• How town and parish councils can work closer with Suffolk Highways to make the best use of their local knowledge, skills, money and time.

Consultation launched on future commissioning of specialist education services  Suffolk County Council have launched a consultation into the commissioning strategy for the development of Suffolk’s specialist educational provision.

Demand for specialist education places in Suffolk for children with SEND continues to grow, and currently the county council has a much lower number of specialist education places than other similar authorities. This means that many children in Suffolk are forced to travel out of county to access the education provision they need – and often Suffolk County Council foots the bill.

At a time when the Council wishes to reduce the amount of free home-to-school transport it provides citing fears of escalating costs, it is vital that we begin to provide more SEND provision within Suffolk.

The 6 week consultation will look at three options for meeting the additional demand for specialist provision. More information and a link to the consultation can be found online at: http://www.suffolk.gov.uk/SENDsufficiencyeducation

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Suffolk Lib Dems launch Manifesto 2017

Candidates for the forthcoming Suffolk County Council elections join Sal Brinton and Ros Scott in the launch of their Manifesto

On Saturday 4 March  Suffolk’s very own Baroness Ros Scott joined Lib Dem party chair Baroness Sal Brinton to  launch the Suffolk Lib Dem  party manifesto for the elections in May.

We have now had  had a decade of conservative cuts letting local people down. Since 2005 the Conservatives have run the County Council, consistently  reducing services, rather than looking after the real needs of local people.  Suffolk Liberal Democrats believe there is a better way and we need urgent action in some important areas.

Suffolk Lib Dems’ SIX priorities for local people

  1. Provide a £5m boost to adult social care
  2. Invest in the infrastructure to support new housing – roads, schools and doctor’s surgeries
  3. Fund a county-wide mental health programme in schools
  4.  Fix our roads and pavements
  5. Invest in local bus services and make park and ride buses more frequent
  6. Protect our libraries

And there’s more. Read our full manifesto here

And here is the EADT’s angle on it

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SEN Education in Suffolk review – Consultation (& Update)

Update: The first tranche of this consultation  finished on 7th February. Click here for Cllr Caroline Page’s response and remarks: SEND Education on Suffolk – the costs and hidden costs).

Suffolk County Council are currently consulting about the future of specialist education provision in Suffolk.

Opposition councillors were naturally sceptical that this was cover for money-saving, but  very clear and open answers from  officers have reassured us that this is not a cost-cutting exercise (the money is ring-fenced) but about spending it to best advantage and with better outcomes.

Suffolk currently has 256 young people sent out of county at the cost of £11m a year for educational provision that Suffolk has not been able or willing to provide in county; some of Suffolk’s PRUs ‘require improvement’ (one is in special measures) and are significantly more expensive per capita  and produce worse outcomes than Norfolk’s (which are rated outstanding), and all the SSCs (specialist support centres)  are located in one quadrant of the county because historically they were only sited in schools that declared themselves willing to house them. “This means there is no specialist support provision in the north and west of the county and some children are making two 75-minute journeys a day to reach them,” according to Caroline Page, spokesperson for Transport and Vice Chair of Educational Transport Appeals.

Suffolk is asking for responsesto find the best way to address these issues and others.

From  11 January – 7 February 2016  people have the opportunity to give your views on a range of options Suffolk are looking at, and you can also suggest other ideas for Suffolk to consider. From 14 March – 24 April 2016 there will be a formal consultation on the proposed changes:  a 6 week formal consultation period where you can make representations to the Council – both expressions of support or objections to the proposals.

So, whether you are concerned or worried, or simply want to add your voice to the debate –  please respond and add your views! They will be valued  You can find the documents here

Caroline Page

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LibDems Question the Administration : Council 16-07-2015

BannerYour LibDem councillors raised a number of important issues during this month’s full council meeting on Thursday, 16 July. Amongst these were the third crossing in Lowestoft, provision of official Travellers’ sites in Suffolk Coastal ; Concessionary travel,  EOTAS, disability and employment, and the impact of the Living Wage.

Leader Dave Woods raised the administration’s inexplicable inability to agree any official site for Travellers in Suffolk Coastal, having halted consultations a couple of years back;

Caroline Page raised the continuing problem of Suffolk’s disgraceful inability to educate or train disabled young people for employment;

Talking to the issue of young people with mental health problems being sent outside the county, Julia Truelove mentioned her concerns that instead of developing resources within the county, the county remains content to send young people outside at great expense, leaving the support of friends and families – and adding to the emotional stress of young people who are already vulnerable. Continue reading LibDems Question the Administration : Council 16-07-2015

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More transport diffculties for post-16 students

Decisions  about funding post-16 transport made by the SCC Cabinet in 2014 are now hitting the street. These resulted in a significant tightening of SCC’s ‘discretionary’  transport offer, due to a double whammy created by conflicting governmental expectations: On the one hand young people are now expected to remain in education, training and employment until 18 – thus creating a de facto if unofficial statutory leaving age of 18. On the other hand, continuing cuts in central funding, assisted by ideological reluctance to increase taxation at either national or local level  means that SCC are trying hard to cover impossible bills.

This has left many rural families with significant problems..

The London-based, urban-centric nature of  central government has a track record of making  decisions without funding support, that put rural-dwelling young people  at a very particular disadvantage. They have so much further to travel to education and so much less in the way of public transport to fall back on than their urban peers. This is my letter in today’s EADT, 2-07-2015.

Sir,

Many people have contacted me re with concerns about SCC’s new post-16 ‘discretionary’ policy which will offer students travel to the nearest place of education only. This sounds reasonable, until you look at the plight of the rural young.

The government’s Raising the Participation Age (RPA) insists on education, training and employment until 18. However, almost all support for travel finishes at 16. And for many rural post-16 students , there may be literally no other transport to education apart from the SCC-chartered bus the discretionary pass is used on,  because the bus services have been cut.

A few years ago SCC replaced many rural bus routes with ‘demand responsive transport,’ A Rural Transport PDP working group last year found this was incompatible provision for school attendance. Remaining bus  routes often run a regular service except for the one bus at school times which has been taken off-route so as to run a school- specific service – ironically for bus-pass holders only. And if a student wants to continue their studies at their catchment school since age 11 (Farlingaye, for example) – but there is another education provider a shade closer, too bad!

Let me remind readers that a discretionary bus pass is not free. It costs the student £600 a year. But the bonkers bus deregulation laws – aimed at promoting competition -won’t allow one to pay for a seat on a school bus if one has no discretionary entitlement. It’s a deeply unhelpful scenario for those who just need transport to get from A to B!.

I have yet to establish what is the situation of the rural young person who is literally unable to attend mandatory school college or training because there is no public transport and they do not drive. Are they sanctioned?

In February’s 2015 Budget debate, I suggested affordable transport was so crucial to education that  we take money out of reserves to support educational transport for disadvantaged  post-16 year olds. My plea was ignored. The council needs to revisit this decision.

I also call again on the county council to lobby for  the extra funding to support RPA. Compare the prospects of our rural young with those in  London – an Oyster card gives free, accessible and appropriate travel for all young people. We cannot continue to lose out to the Londoncentric  travel funding policies of successive governments – who simply ignore the problems faced by rest of us . Young people in Suffolk also deserve  to achieve their potential!

And finally, it is surely time for Suffolk to lobby for the re-regulation of local bus services, so that we do not carry on  spending our council tax payers money patching together pieces of a fractured system that fails in a rural setting

Caroline Page
LibDem Spokeman for Transport

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

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Suffolks Schools – the link between poverty and education

So NOW the report on health in Suffolk has again pointed out the link between poor education results and poverty in Ipswich and Lowestoft, maybe the county council will at last take notice of what we have been saying and do something about it?  or are they just waiting until the schools are forced to become Academies –  then can let someone else take the blame???

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Suffolk Schools – two- and three-tier education

Penny Otton SCCI am of course extremely pleased to learn that education results in Suffolk are at last beginning to improve.

However to still be so near the bottom of the table is not only disturbing , but  ironic,  in that two of the best performing secondary schools in the County are in Bury St. Edmunds, where there is still a three tier school system.

Conservatives in Suffolk have spent an undeclared amount – which must run into tens of millions of pounds – on reorganising from three to two tier schooling.

The independent report by Ofsted last year on Suffolk schools  gave a damning verdict on the council’s performance of supporting county run schools and challenging academies, stating  “The Local Authority arrangements for supporting school improvement are ineffective.”

At the very start of the schools reorganisation Liberal Democrat councillors warned that the benefits would be minimal –  as poor school performance was related to deprivation not school structure.  Year on year we challenged Conservative cuts to the funding for school improvement. They seemed hell-bent on continuing with this very costly process, whilst Suffolk plummeted down the national education league tables.

A whole generation of school children have now been through Suffolk schools that have failed to improve . Perhaps those in charge should pause now to reflect on where the time , money and expertise would have been better spent.

Penny Otton

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Suffolk Lib Dem Group: Suffolk’s 2015-16 Budget

BannerThis year we have chosen not to attempt a detailed amendment to the budget but to comment on matters of principal at a strategic level on those service areas we consider most important.

The Liberal Democrat group is fully aware of the overall financial situation and supports the government focus on reducing the budget deficit.  However it believes that many services provided by local government are valuable and should not be a first priority for cuts.

We believe that the county should use the resources provided by government and those it raises locally to support the local population and the economy.  The Tories have diverted significant funds into reserves “for a rainy day”, and we have seen reserves grow dramatically during the financial crisis.  They appear to be saving for a “rainy decade” while cutting services NOW.  Funds could be used on today’s issues using reserves set aside for activities that will never occur.

The county must fund infrastructure that supports the local economy and ensure it is fit for purpose.  For broadband we can see some progress but highways maintenance is slow and inadequate.

The county should provide services that support a good quality of life for vulnerable people and those who have difficulty getting work.  We need to help people into work or help them into work re-enabling people who have had problems whenever possible.

ACS–Services for the elderly and vulnerable   Within ACS the administration continuously seeks to reduce demand making no increase for inflation or demographic change.  We support continuous pressure to improve efficiency removing bureaucracy and deploying new techniques and technology.  However, we must ensure that people are not just forced out of relative low cost services into those with much higher spend.  Into acute hospitals due to a lack of care places for instance.  The county should collect data on local needs, understand it and focus on those needs.  There should be clear evidence that needs are being met.

The cycle we see too often in our divisions, of a chaotic and disastrous end to life bounced from service to service must cease.  We find it difficult to believe that this can be achieved in the face of an increasing elderly population while we put money in reserves “for a rainy day”.  The problems experienced with care homes within the County’s contract are inexcusable.

The County must watch its strategy closely to be sure that the vulnerable are not being pushed out of the support system.  Cost reductions purely from lower wage rates or working hours are not acceptable.  They just move the budget problem to the benefit bill.

Public Health  Mental health services are clearly inadequate but at national level Liberal Democrats are taking action and we welcome the moves by Norman Lamb to establish maximum times for referral.  We believe that the County must play its role in this area.

CYP– Children’s services with emphasis on education  These concern us concerns us most.  The performance of many of our schools, particularly those in deprived areas lags the national picture.  While there are improvements, in key stage 2 reading, writing and maths Suffolk has improved moving us up the Local Authority rankings from 145 to 141 this is not good enough.  The Tory response is to cut the overall CYP budget by £6.6 million.

We have the “Raising the Bar” initiative but find it difficult to detect any real enthusiasm for it in Suffolk Schools or a belief that it is an effective approach.  A school governors commented recently “If the Local Authority continues to focus on such non-events as the distribution of meaningless and infantile rosettes, I think we can be confident that the Bar will remain firmly on, or near, the floor.”  Currently we appear to have a learning inspection service and we need a learning improvement service.

Leadership is essential but the enthusiastic effective leadership teams in our good and outstanding schools just don’t have the budget to cover supply replacements while they help others to make the leap in teaching and learning required.  They can’t neglect their own schools and let them fall back.

We still believe that the County should fund supply cover and in addition establish a small number of “excellence” teams who could work with the leadership teams in failing schools to remove pressure, determine what needs to be done and put it in place.   Excellence teams would need people with proven track records who enjoy a challenge and would need to ensure that necessary management decisions are taken.

The cost of such teams would not be trivial but would be small compared to the County budget and must be less than the continuing cost of failure.

The Conservative administration have been in control of our children’s education now for ten years and in many areas a whole generation of Suffolk young people have been through a failing education system.  This system must be improved and “Raising the Bar” is not working.

And, while the government has made it mandatory for young people to remain in education or training until 17 it seems deeply inappropriate to have no fundng mechanism in place to support the poorest young people of the county for this last year of what is now statutory education, as exists up until 16. Our view is  that you need to speculate in order to accumulate – that savings should be measured longterm. A small investment from our our rainy day millions now could reap dividends in years to come

The Suffolk County Council Lib Dem Group

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