Child and youth welfare faces challenges

Laatzen. An increasing number of cases and new additional tasks will pose major challenges for child and youth welfare in Laatzen over the next few years and will result in a greater need for staff. The head of the municipal youth welfare service, Arne Bungeroth, has now pointed out the consequences of legislative changes and social developments to city council politicians and has promised to chart the necessary course.

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“We are at the beginning of a time when decisions must be made on quite important things,” Bungeroth emphasized at the most recent meeting of the children and youth committee. In the 20 years – as long as the Hanover region and the Youth Office Laatzen have existed – there have been a number of social developments which have also affected the judiciary. The “inclusive solution” is also considered to be the heart of the new Child and Youth Empowerment Act. “It no longer means that people have a disability and need help, but that people have a basic right to help – the youth offices must learn that,” says Bungeroth.

The Youth Office needs expertise for all kinds of disabilities

The biggest change will be that in 2028 the youth welfare service in Laatzen will be responsible for all children with disabilities, explained the head of the youth welfare service. The municipality currently only has responsibility for young people with mental disabilities. All others, i.e. those with mental and physical limitations or multiple disabilities, must contact the Hanover Region. Besides the fact that the distinction between mental and emotional disabilities is ethically questionable, the city of Laatzen must consider how to guarantee this expertise.

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Cooperation with other smaller youth offices is conceivable, as well as the question of whether the integration aid should be transferred to the Hanover region as a whole, as was the case with the adoption area. “Some things don’t happen much in Laatzen, so a ⅛ job is not worth it,” says Bungeroth.

Process controllers must be delivered from 2024

Another legal innovation is that, from 2024, youth welfare offices must provide process guides that follow and support families throughout the entire process, from applying for help in the field of integration assistance to the granting of help. For this completely new field of work, whose professional standards have not yet been developed, the city of Laatzen wants to hire two new specialists who will start work in autumn 2024 and who will be included in the employment plan for 2023.

There is also a greater need for staff in advance payment of maintenance. The number of cases and assignments had grown so much that a new full-time position had to be created as early as October, according to a message from department head Thomas Schrader to the committee. Although the city receives a contribution to the costs from the region, it is based on the number of residents in Laatzen and not on the actual increase in workload. The same applies to the necessary increase in truancy jobs (twelve extra hours of work per week) and youth financial welfare (plus nine hours per week).

Personnel costs increase by 200,000 euros per year

Already in the autumn, the annual staff costs increased by 132,000 euros, and in one year the additional amount would then rise to around 200,000 euros per year. The extent to which these additional costs will be taken into account and compensated for cannot yet be predicted and must be negotiated as part of the consultations on the “inclusive solution”, according to the announcement cited by the Youth Office, which also refers to the increase in reports of domestic violence, new forms of absence from school and the persistently high level of reports of possible threats to children’s welfare.

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Overall, Bungeroth assumes a higher workload, which is also reflected in “seven to eight jobs”. “It’s a policy question: How do we deal with funding shortfalls,” Bungeroth said on the committee. In his estimation, the city still has one to two years to answer the various questions

Despite all the challenges, Bungeroth in no way sees the independence of Laatzener Child and Youth Services in question: “The Youth Office must remain, it is not a problem.” Apart from Laatzen, there are only independent youth welfare offices in Burgdorf, Langenhagen and Lehrte.

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