Town hall leaders have pledged there will be no cuts to its support for young people with autism, despite cutting the service’s budget.
Southwark council has said it needs to save more than £300,000 from the budget for its early years autism service, special needs inclusion practitioner service and home education services for children up to two years old.
It works with pre-school children to support their development socially or to help their families understand their diagnosis.
The council’s own equality reports on the budget said most of these savings would have negative impacts on residents unless it finds alternative funding.
So the council’s ruling Labour group has performed a U-turn on the move. Officials will now seek alternative funding for the home education service for families with newborns up to the age of two years old.
Labour cabinet member for children Cllr Jasmine Ali said: “The council has a statutory duty to produce a balanced budget, something that is more and more challenging following more than a decade of crippling cuts to funding from government.
“Our absolute priority is to protect our more vulnerable residents and frontline services from funding cuts, but it’s getting harder each year.
However, our cabinet report made it clear that we were seeking alternative sources of funding to avoid any cuts to our education services, including those for children with special educational needs and children with autism, and I’m delighted to announce that we have done what we said we would.
“There will be no changes to these important services, which I know will be welcome news for local families.”
Southwark Council’s cabinet have approved a 2022-2023 budget that includes savings in special educational needs and disability (SEND) and early years services.
Director of Children’s and Adults Services David Quirke-Thornton had stressed at an Overview and Scrutiny Committee (OSC) meeting last week that these services were still important, but that the council could no longer afford to fund it.
Southwark Liberal Democrats had slammed the threat to support, before the borough’s ruling Labour leadership reversed the cuts.
Cllr Hamish McCallum, Southwark Liberal Democrat Group Leader had said before the council announced the U-turn: “These budget savings are an absolutely heartless decision from a Labour administration that pretends to care about a ‘Fairer Future’ for all.
“Instead, Labour are putting critical services for vulnerable people at risk. These services support some of our most vulnerable residents at the most sensitive stages of their development.
We believe that money must be allocated to safeguard these services.”