Warwickshire County Council’s Cabinet has approved that a WCC operated, Ofsted registered, residential children’s home will be opened for up to four Children in Care, in late Autumn next year.
This is the first time that the county will have run such a facility since the 1980s.
The decision comes as the county council seeks to stabilise its position in an increasingly volatile external market. As more local authorities have sought to place some of their Children in Care (CIC) in homes managed by external providers, placements have been harder to secure due to the added demand.
As well as increasing costs, this has meant that some children are being placed at a significant distance from their homes. Children placed by the county council with external providers are currently based an average 50 miles from their homes.
The move to reintroduce residential accommodation will complement and support the existing offer of fostering. Initially, the homes will have an intake of four children of 12years and under with at least two adults on site at all times to mirror a typical family ratio, alongside a manager or deputy.
Benefits will include keeping children closer to their families, education and health and social care providers. It will also make quality assurance easier, with all aspects of the children’s support network being closer.
The approach of keeping vulnerable children inside the county is an ambition of the council. It follows the purchase last year of the former Pears Building in Ash Green which will allow 80 children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) to go to school in Warwickshire rather than to daily out of county placements. The special school on that site is scheduled to open in September 2021.
Cllr Jeff Morgan, portfolio holder for Children’s Services, said:
“The decision to open a residential children’s home reflects the council’s desire to keep as many of our vulnerable children in the county as we possibly can. Keeping these children close to their homes, families and all of the support services will be hugely beneficial to them. All evidence indicates that this produces better outcomes for them and of course it gives us, as corporate parents, a greater degree of control so that we can assure the quality of the care more easily.
“It does not mean that we are reducing our fostering service. The availability of local residential children’s homes will sit alongside that and offer us another option so that we can choose what is best for each individual child.
“We have already started the process of looking at other potential sites and engaging with local residents and stakeholders. One of the commitments we have made is that we will look at many different ways that residents of the homes can engage positively with the local community.
“There are savings that will be made but that is not the driver for the decision, rather another positive outcome.”