Good response to Care and Learning Facebook chat

Highland Council held the third in a series of Budget Facebook Chats on Wednesday 11 November.

Chair of Education, Children and Adult Services Committee, Cllr Drew Millar and Director of Care and Learning Bill Alexander took part in the event which focused on Care and Learning.

The Care and Learning Service provides: Education, Social Care and Community Health services for children and their families in the Highland Council area; Mental Health Officers; Criminal Justice Social Work; out of hours Social Work; facilities management in schools; and cleaning and catering services. It also commissions culture and leisure services from High Life Highland and adult social care from NHS Highland.

Around 300 comments on were made on the event page. These included questions and comments from members of the public and answers from Cllr Millar and Mr Alexander.

Participants were asked questions relating to a number of issues including the Primary School week and children’s Social Workers.

Participants were asked the question: “If we can protect services by reducing the Primary School week to 22.5 hours (over 4.5 days) which is the nationally agreed class contact time for teachers, would to this be acceptable to you?”

Of the 428 that responded to date, 357 (83.41%) said no, 66 (15.42%) said yes and 5 (1.17%) said they didn’t know.

When asked the question “Highland Council’s Care and Education budget could reduced by £17m next year and we may need to make 6% savings. Do you think that the savings should apply EQUALLY across the service in: Schools; Additional Support Needs; Children’s Social Work and Adult Social Work?”

71 (71.72%) of the 99 respondents to date said no, 26 (26.26%) said yes and 2 (2.02%) said they didn’t know.

A follow up to this question was posted asking “If you have said No, we should not make savings EQUALLY across the Service. Which part of Care and Learning would you protect?”

Of the 133 respondents to date, 84 (63.16%) said Schools, both Additional Support Needs and Children’s Social Work were selected by 21 people each (15.79%) and 7 (5.26%) selected Adult Social Work.

When asked “If the Care budget was £3m less next year, should we have fewer children’s social workers?”

90 (81.08%) of the 111 respondents to date said no, 14 (12.61%) said yes and 7 (6.31%) said they didn’t know.

Chair of the Council’s Education, Children and Adult and Services Committee, Councillor Drew Millar said: “I would like to thank everybody who took part in the event for their questions, comments and suggestions.

“We are currently looking at a wide range of proposals and ideas to save money and increase income, while protecting the most essential of services as far as possible. Some of the proposals include difficult choices we really would rather not have to make, however we have very significant savings to make, to balance our reducing budget.

Councillor Millar added: “The feedback through Facebook is helpful and we will take that into account along with other ways of gauging public views, whether face to face or through other surveys.  Our Citizens’ Panel is representative of the adult population and we will be surveying it at the end of the month.”

Nearly 10,000 people like the Council’s Facebook page. The vast majority of these people live in the Highlands, with around a quarter living in the Inverness area. There is a wide spectrum of ages, with 74% of people aged between 25 and 54. 10% are over 55’s and 16% under 25’s.

17 Nov 2015
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