Shropshire Council to invest in new residential accommodation for children in care
Shropshire Council has agreed to increase its provision of residential accommodation for children in its care, by investing in the purchase, adaptation and fit-out of up to three new properties in the county.
The proposal was approved by councillors at a meeting of full Council yesterday, 28 February 2019.
The project will require the acquisition of three new properties – one for boys and one for girls – in semi-rural locations, followed by a three-bed short-stay home for children who have a high likelihood of being able to return home or step down to foster care.
The move would increase the provision of local accommodation for local ‘looked-after’ children in the care of Shropshire Council, helping to prevent them from having to move out of the county, and enabling the council to better support those in its care.
The plans have come about as the council is finding it increasingly difficult to find accommodation for children in the county, along with the escalating costs of external residential placements, and the lack of choice for Shropshire children and young people. The plan is to focus on those more complex, hard to place – and therefore more costly – children.
Nick Bardsley, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member for children and young people, said:
“In short, these plans will enable us to better meet the needs of our looked-after children by providing additional accommodation within the county. This will lead to a wide range of benefits for the children, our staff and the council. Children will be closer to home, staff won’t need to travel long distances to visit them, and the council can provide much better care for these children, especially those with complex needs, improving their life chances so that they can develop into responsible Shropshire residents.
“At the same time, this move will help to reduce the pressure on our placements budget. Like all other local authorities, we’re required to place vulnerable children and young people in safe, secure and permanent residential placements. However, the average cost of an external residential placement is currently £3,676 per week – the highest is £12,000 per week – and we’re projecting an overspend on our placements budget for this year.
“This isn’t helped by the fact that private providers have been increasing their placement costs significantly in recent months. We’re therefore in a position of having to agree to significant price increases or increase the range of accommodation that we provide.”
Karen Bradshaw, Shropshire Council’s director of children’s services, said:
“This is a really positive move for the council and the children in our care. It will ensure stability for a greater number of children within Shropshire where they can access school, health and leisure services and maintain ongoing relationships with their family and friends. It will also help us to better support our young people to develop their independence skills as they prepare to move out of the care of the local authority.
“These homes will be used for some of the council’s more vulnerable young people. Enabling children to stay in Shropshire will reduce the high and rising external placement costs, but also promote their connection to their family and support their transition to adulthood.”
All of the residential provision will each employ full time and permanent members of staff. There will be development opportunities for existing staff to become managers, deputy managers and shift leaders, which will then create opportunities for more Shropshire residents and people outside of the county to work within the residential environment.
- Shropshire Council is required to provide children who are deemed to be looked- after with accommodation that meets their needs. Should the council be unable to provide suitable accommodation it would be failing to meet its statutory duties.
- ‘External placements’ are those outside of the Shropshire Council area.
- Shropshire Council currently operates two successful residential properties – Chelmaren and Havenbrook.
- It is recognised nationally and in the recently-published Narey report on residential care that for some children residential care is the most appropriate option for them.
- The purchase, adaptation and fit-out of up to three new properties will be funded through borrowing.