Grantham Journal column: ‘There’s more at stake with this decision than simply money,’ says Labour’s Charmaine Morgan

Charmaine Morgan
Charmaine Morgan
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Despite opposition, Lincolnshire County Council has opted to cease funding of Home-Start services across the county as a result of Government budget cuts.

This is not only concerning, but simply does not make economic sense. Home-Start Grantham state they are ‘a volunteer based local charity offering support, friendship and practical help to families with at least one child under the age of eleven’.Its annual report highlights how they helped support over 200 local children and 33 families at home in the Grantham area last year. Of the children supported, 160 were under five years old and 16 of the children disabled.

Home-Start relies on a small team of employed staff and on the 33 volunteers who are trained by Home-Start to work with families. It is difficult for families to reach out for help and some find the Home-Start members to be a preferable option to working directly with ‘officials’ at the local authority.

The LCC decision to halt funding the charity’s services has been made with no clarity around whether or not the unique service they provide will be continued in the future by alternative means. The indications are this will not be the case.

SKDC elderly council residents lost regular home visit support when the new short term LCC Wellbeing Service was introduced. Now, unless adequate public donations or alternative funding can be found, vulnerable families could lose their volunteer home visit support, and local clubs helping our most vulnerable families could fold.

Even if we chose to ignore the ‘catastrophic’ impact such cuts can have on those dependent on them, the loss of such an important service makes no economic sense.

In both cases, early support and intervention can drastically reduce the need for costly professional intervention later, when authorities have statutory obligations to provide support if issues escalate.

Home-Start advises their support costs £1,500 a year per family, which contrasts starkly with the LCC £50,000 a year to support a ‘Troubled Family’.

The decision by LCC to cut funding to core Home-Start services across the county could also jeopardise £200k external funding that Home-Start members have recently successfully applied for. The external funds must be used to expand existing Home-Start services to also include vulnerable families in our more rural areas.

As local authority budget cuts continue there is a danger of ‘being penny wise and pound foolish’. If only it were money alone at stake.