Children’s home plans

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COUNCILLORS are being asked to push ahead with plans for Hartlepool Borough Council to run its own children’s home.

The local authority is considering running its own four-bedroom children’s home to cut down on the cost of placing looked after children in independent homes.

Officers say it will also help keep youngsters in town and save the council up to £110,000 a year.

A potential property has been identified and work is ongoing.

The council is hoping to secure the property for free from a partner organisation or it could buy or rent a property.

The cabinet committee will meet next week to discuss the proposal.

Members are asked to agree to push ahead with plans and officers also want permission to enter into formal discussions with a housing association for the transfer of a property.

A range of options was first discussed in March.

Cabinet members wanted more information on two options – one or two homes developed and managed by the council or homes developed and managed by another local authority in Hartlepool.

Officers said it had proved difficult to set out a business case for the second option and are recommending the first.

Benefits include officers having a “working” knowledge of the needs of looked-after children in town.

A report by Sally Robinson, assistant director child and adult services, said: “The proposal that the council manages and delivers a local authority-run children’s home in Hartlepool will ensure that for those children for whom it is appropriate, they can receive care and support within the town ensuring continuity of education, health care family and social networks.

“Evidence would suggest that stability and continuity promotes improved outcomes for children.”

The average cost of four placements in an independent home is £2,862 a week or £597,000 annually.

Officers say the council has the “skills, experience and knowledge” to provide a high quality children’s home, while it would also reduce the dependency on external providers and help control costs.

There could also be the potential to sell placements to other local authorities if there was ever empty places.

As of March 31 this year, there were 181 looked after children in town, with 22 in residential care at any one time.

A minority are housed out of Hartlepool.

The report added: “Overall, the development of a children’s home by Hartlepool Borough Council would be in the best interests of the children looked after by the authority leading to improved outcomes.”

Before a home can be opened there is a rigorous evaluation process including an inspection.

A children’s home must have a registered manager, a statement of purpose and children’s guide.

There used to be a number of children’s homes in town but the council closed its last one, Flint Walk, in September 2003.

The cabinet committee is due to meet on Monday, July 9, at the Civic Centre, in Victoria Road, at 9.30am.