IN spite of a decision to target expenditure at the most vulnerable residents, Cambridgeshire County Council has abandoned a Whitehall-funded scheme to help the most challenging younger children in care – without helping a single child. And the council is

IN spite of a decision to target expenditure at the most vulnerable residents, Cambridgeshire County Council has abandoned a Whitehall-funded scheme to help the most challenging younger children in care - without helping a single child.

And the council is also set to halve its £700,000-a-year budget for educational support over the next three years, losing the equivalent of six-and-a-half highly-experienced teachers.

There are 500 children in the care of the county council, many of whom have been abused, neglected or grown up in families without parenting skills, and are the latest victims of a public-sector funding crisis created, according to council leaders, by reckless bankers.

Cambridgeshire was one of only two rural areas in Britain to be selected to put into place an intensive programme that has already proved its value in Oregon, USA, to provide support to change children with 'challenging behaviour' into happier, more settled individuals.

Initially, the move would have cost Council Tax payers nothing - central Government was picking up the £400,000 cost of the part-time team over the first two years of the trial.

The first placements under the Multi-dimensional Treatment Foster Care (MTFC) initiative had been expected in October.

In the end, not a single child was helped before the decision was taken at the beginning of February to pull the plug on the ground-breaking scheme.

Now the council is set to go further with its cuts.

A spokesman said: "Cambridgeshire County Council is facing unprecedented pressure on its budget and as a result has had to look at all areas of its spending to identify potential areas of saving and cost reduction.

"The budget includes a proposal for a reduction of 50 per cent over the next three years for the Educational Support Services provided for looked after children - this service is primarily staff-based and, as a result, the only way to achieve the potential cost reductions is by reducing the number of staff.

"However, work is continuing to identify other forms of funding, including external grants, which would enable us to mitigate the impact of the county council's planned budget reductions for the service."

He added: "The service comprises 13 full-time equivalent teachers, who work to raise the attainment of looked-after children. Although the size of the team is likely to reduce, the service is well placed to support other professionals, such as designated teachers in schools, to take the lead on some areas of work.