CHILDREN’S minister Ed Balls has offered reassurances that vulnerable youngsters will not suffer when education and childcare services are broken up due to local government reorganisation.
Mr Balls, secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, made the comments while attending the prestigious North of England Education Conference at the racecourse.
The Chronicle asked Mr Balls MP about fears that some vulnerable children may fall through the net during the disruption caused by abolishing Cheshire County Council which has run high performing education and child care services.
He said: “I think there will not be anybody working in schools or children’s services in Cheshire who will want anything other than excellent continuity through the split.”
Mr Balls acknowledged “any kind of change” was challenging but said people working hard across the country to ensure the interests of children were best served.
It was at the conference that Mr Balls MP announced that he would be sending council children’s services chiefs on intensive training programmes to help them deal with complex child protection cases in the wake of the Baby P tragedy.
But Ray McHale of Cheshire Unison says there are more pressing issues facing this county in the run-up to the complete reorganisation of Cheshire’s local government system on April 1.
He said: “I don’t think anyone would be unprofessional about the situation, particularly running children’s services and social services. But we need to make sure the structures are tried and tested and working well.”
He added that morale among the workforce generally was “not very good” because people felt unsettled and insecure due to all the changes.
Cheshire County Council’s lead member for children’s services Cllr David Rowlands has previously written to Mr Balls to express concerns about “continuity of vision and service” being put at “severe risk”.
Cllr Rowlands said: “The Children Act places a duty on us to act in the best interests of the children in Cheshire. Those interests are not fulfilled by the decision to split the county.”