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Newport councillors criticise proposed budget cuts to social services

NEWPORT councillors have passionately criticised the proposed budget cuts to social services , with one councillor becoming tearful.

The reduction of £3.75 million, which is part of the draft budget for 2023/24, will effect day and respite care, services for those with learning difficulties, and mental health support.

Labour councillor Debbie Jenkins was visibly emotional during a discussion on the cuts at a performance scrutiny committee meeting on Tuesday, January 24.

If the budget is approved, short breaks will no longer be offered to adults with care and support needs. Currently there are more than 70 people using this service, which is proposed to close completely.

Cllr Jenkins, who represents Pillgwenlly, said: “Where will they go?”

The closure of the service will save the council £613,000.

Cllr Miqdad Al-Nuaimi, who represents Stow Hill, said: “We are talking about short breaks for people and their carers, and they need that.”

He added: “If we have to make a reduction obviously it should be a small one.”

Cuts to services such as Oaklands respite centre and Growing Spaces were also criticised by the scrutiny committee.

The council is proposing to cut Oaklands’ services – which provides overnight stays for children with learning difficulties – in half, to make a saving of £485,000.

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Independent councillor for Bettws, Janet Cleverley, said: “I feel really sorry for them if it’s stopped. How can we be stopping this service to people that really need it?”

Head of children’s services at the council, Natalie Poyner, enforced that the council was not closing Oaklands but reducing its services.

Cllr Trevor Watkins, who represents Tredegar Park and Marshfield, raised concerns about the potential impact the reduction could have on foster caring in Newport.

The council is also proposing to pull its funding – which is £95,700 – from Growing Spaces, a mental health service provider.

One of their projects is based at Tredegar House, where participants can grow plants and food in the garden, or learn to cook in a community kitchen.

Councillors were informed the service could continue through other funding streams.

Cllr Allan Screen said: “It’s a preventative organisation and any cuts to funding will stir up problems and lead to costs in future.”

Chair of the committee Cllr William Routley described the proposed cuts as “shocking”.

To the council’s social services staff, Cllr Routley said: “Whatever comments we make here are not personal. They are professionally put to you.”

The committee’s views will be passed on to cabinet, in addition to the public’s response through consultation which is currently taking place.