Council to spend £175,000 to become ‘child friendly’

A Black Coutnry council is set to spend £175,000 to become ‘child friendly.’

Sandwell Council will be applying to children’s charity UNICEF as part of a bid to be recognised as a ‘child-friendly’ community. The council said it would take between three and five years and would cost at least £175,000 in fees.

The initiative promises a ‘cultural change’ across the entire council which would ensure “every child has the best possible childhood, regardless of where they live, how much their parents earn, their cultural heritage or their complex needs.” The council said the money would give it access to “expertise, training and experience from a trusted organisation.”

The move comes at a time when residents in Sandwell will be asked to pay five per cent more on council tax bills from April alongside a hike in rent for social housing tenants – as well as millions of pounds of cuts to council services. The move to become ‘child friendly’ was a key manifesto pledge by Sandwell Labour.

Sandwell Council was asked whether it was sensible to spend £175,000 on the move given the council’s budget problems and what the benefits of becoming child-friendly would be. Cllr Simon Hackett, the council’s cabinet member for children and young people, was also asked whether the council was only spending the money on a ‘label.’ He said:

“This isn’t just about a label. Sandwell Council and its partners – such as the police, health services, community organisations and volunteers – play a significant role in shaping children’s lives through the local services and spaces they provide.

“These include services that every child might use – like schools, libraries or leisure centres – through to more targeted services, such as protection from abuse and neglect, accommodation for children who are looked after by the council, or services for children with disabilities.”

Sandwell Council said it had looked to neighbours in Coventry when deciding to apply for ‘child-friendly’ status where the city council partnered with utility companies to cap bills for children leaving care – listing the deal as one of the potential benefits that could be mirrored for children in Sandwell. Cllr Hackett added:

“Child-friendly means we champion the voices of children and young people by ensuring their views are heard and given equal weight when decisions are made about the communities they grow up in. Children’s experiences of these services have a significant impact on their lives, yet few are run or designed with children’s rights in mind.

This means they often fall short of what children need to truly feel safe, heard, cared for and able to flourish. This initiative will enable children and young people to be involved in key decision-making and shape the place they are growing up in.”

Sandwell Council is planning to make £19m in cuts to balance its books – including £2m from education and children’s services budgets. Some of the biggest cuts and money-saving plans include reducing the budget for parks, green spaces and ground maintenance by £736,000 alongside a £256,000 reduction to the borough’s library budget. They also plan to cut nearly £200,000 from the school crossings budget.

Council bosses propose to continue with a “review” of the borough’s SEND transport system – which provides free transport for children who cannot walk to school because of their special educational needs and disabilities. It is believed this would save £700,000.

“Efficiencies” and “value for money initiatives” would save nearly £500,000 from the children’s services budget, the council also claimed earlier this month.

Recent figures also revealed that Sandwell has the highest number of child deaths in the Black Country – with 144 children dying in the borough in the last four years.

Cardiff was named the UK’s first ‘child-friendly’ city last year and other towns and cities such as Southampton and Liverpool are making moves to be given the same accolade by UNICEF.


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