SENIOR members were questioned about how much benefit has come from the council declaring Rotherham a “child-centred borough”.
RMBC adopted the phrase as an ambition in the wake of the child sexual exploitation scandal and the authority being declared unfit for purpose.
The council even paid £420 to trademark the term Children’s Capital of Culture, with a big celebration planned for 2025.
Cllr Kerry Albiston, independent, said: “I fail to see the difference that having ‘child-centred’ as a statement has actually made.”
Deputy leader Cllr Gordon Watson, cabinet member for children’s services, said a Child-centred Rotherham Board had been set up, leading to young people’s voices being heard in key council developments.
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These have included involvement in senior staff recruitment, inspections and annual “takeover” events where youngsters debate issues that matter to them in the council chamber, Cllr Watson said.
Cllr Albiston said: “While there are laudable things, they are absolutely what you would expect from a functioning local authority.
“When you’re looking at child poverty levels growing, the diminishing of the youth service, I would have thought, had we been a child-centred borough, that we would have really valued our youth work.”
Cllr Watson said during the pandemic, RMBC’s early help social workers had made 7,000 visits in person — and another 5,000 virtually — while many councils had moved more to online.
He added: “Increasing child poverty is a national issue as a result of government policies.
“The things that we are doing in the borough to address the issues for vulnerable children are considerably more than most authorities would be doing.”
Cllr Adam Carter, Lib Dem, said: “Investing in children is laudable but having the brand Children’s Capital of Culture is something that residents can’t see as the council being credible, given the history in the area.”
Cllr Sarah Allen, cabinet member for cleaner, greener communities, told last week’s council meeting (13) that discussions about the 2025 events programme were still in the early stages.
She added: “Rotherham as a borough has travelled an awful long way. There are individuals who will never believe that things have changed.
“People are, by nature, sometimes negative. We are serious about being that child-centred borough.”