YORK needs a way of reaching struggling families who might fall through the gaps of social work and health services, councillors have said.

City of York Council is about to implement a major overhaul of its children and young people's services, but a senior councillor has warned that children's lives could be at stake if the new services are not set up right.

At a meeting this week, Cllr Janet Looker warned that York had been lucky to not have to face up to a risk as severe as the death of the child.

The council's executive met on Thursday and approved the new model of services for children and young people. It will see new Local Area Teams based around the city providing early intervention services for children and families, in a move which officials hope will cut down the number of expensive specialist services needed to solve problems at a later stage.

Children's services director Jon Stonehouse told councillors it was a "more rational, logical, and intelligent" use of resources in a way that could make a difference to children, while executive member for children's services Cllr Jenny Brooks said headteachers across the city were engaging with the new plans.

But Cllr Looker warned that with a lot of detail yet to come on how the teams would work, it was vital to find a way of reaching the families most in need of help.

She said: "The question is always going to be how we identify the children and families who don't knock on the door of the children's centre, who don't present themselves at the clinic, and who don't go anywhere near the GP, but perhaps turn up at school at four or five years old with quite severe developmental problems.

"How do we find the families who don't realise that if their child hasn't spoken at three and a half, or are still in nappies at four, that is a problem?"

The moves are supposed to save around £1.4 million over three years - 40 percent of the budget, and council deputy leader Cllr Keith Aspden said they should be in no doubt of the scale of the challenges.