Campaigners claim hundreds of families at risk from mental health service cuts

Stourbridge News: Families with adopted or fostered children who need specialist mental health treatment say they are soon to be the victims of council cuts Families with adopted or fostered children who need specialist mental health treatment say they are soon to be the victims of council cuts

DUDLEY councillors are being warned hundreds of borough families are at risk from cuts in services for vulnerable children.

Campaigners are demanding a U-turn on a decision to axe a specialist service for adopted and fostered youngsters with mental health problems.

Parents say closure of the Looked After and Adopted Children (LAAC) psychology service, based in Cross Street, Dudley, would have a devastating effect.

A leading campaigner, who has asked to remain anonymous to protect the identity of her adopted children, said: "They are choosing the wrong services to cut, by taking away this support they will have more breakdowns within families.

"Dudley is doing this to save money in the short term but these are the most vulnerable children in our community."

Fostered or adopted children often have behavioural or mental problems, including eating disorders and violent rages, caused by traumatic experiences in their birth families.

They are statistically more likely to be dependent on drink or drugs and become homeless or end up in prison later in life.

In March Dudley Council approved a cut of £30,000 for commissioning children and adolescent mental health services as part of its 2013 budget.

Following the decision, Dudley and Walsall Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust announced a staged withdrawal of investment and a review of the LAAC caseload.

Campaigners fear the service will be closed by July and families will be placed at the end of lengthy waiting lists for inappropriate treatment.

In a letter to Cllr Tim Crumpton, Dudley cabinet member for children's services and Gary Graham, chief executive Dudley and Walsall Mental Health Trust, campaigners said: "Many of us have used, or are currently using this service and know from personal experience how crucial the support offered is to the welfare of our children and families.

"We also have experience of how alternative existing services do not adequately meet the needs of looked after and adopted children."

Dudley's ruling Labour councillors claim to be doing all they can to protect frontline services and blame government cuts to local authority grants for the threat to LAAC services.

Cllr Crumpton said: "I share the real concerns that carers and others have written to me about. The service is something that Dudley is very proud of.

"I am actively looking at a number of options that will enable this service to continue into the future and hope to have a solution very shortly. In the meantime the service is continuing."

Protestor Nicola Marshall, from Halesowen, said: "They are not protecting frontline services at all, this could affect hundreds of families."

The campaign group has set up a website and online petition at www.savedudleycamhs.co.uk

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