With an increasing demand for children’s home places and our duty to provide good quality accommodation which meets children’s needs, it is our vision to open a Warwickshire CC-operated residential care home – a facility we have not had in place since the 1980s.
Although we always prefer to place children in a home environment, foster care doesn’t meet all children’s needs and across Warwickshire and the country as a whole the number of children in residential care is growing.
We are currently reliant on the external market to provide children’s residential care provision, which can lead to children being accommodated many miles away from their originating address.
Of our current residential cohort, 89% are placed outside of Warwickshire. This can have a disruptive impact on all areas of their life including social and family networks and school, which in many cases is the child’s main source of stability. The need to join a new school can be disruptive and can often lead to children falling behind with their education.
Keeping children who need to use these services closer to their families, friends and all of the support services they access will be hugely beneficial to the individual concerned, and all evidence clearly indicates this.
By opening an Ofsted-registered residential home for children rather than relying solely on the external market means we are provided with greater choice, giving ourselves another option so we can choose what is best for each individual child. It will also potentially reduce the risk of being unable to find suitable placements, and means we can assure the quality of care more easily.
While savings will be made, this is not the driver for this decision. The aim is to increase placement options and deliver positive outcomes for these children.
Our proposal is to open a residential children’s home for up to four of our younger children (12 years old and under) within the next 12-18 months and we have already identified a site and engaged with local residents and stakeholders.
This is an exciting step for the council to take as we seek to widen the provision we have for our most vulnerable children. It provides us with a springboard for further future developments.
Cllr Jeff Morgan is Warwickshire CC’s portfolio holder for children’s services