Children’s homes plan is backed

Stuart Drummond
Stuart Drummond

SENIOR councillors have backed plans for Hartlepool Borough Council to run its own children’s homes.

Officers will now explore owning and running one or more three to four-bedroom children’s homes to enable children and young people to stay in their home town.

The idea could save as much as £900,000 a year in costs for housing children outside town with foster care agencies.

The council’s cabinet committee gave its backing following recommendations from the children’s services scrutiny forum.

In February there were 193 children and young people in the care of the local authority, 22 in residential care at any one time.

A minority are housed out of Hartlepool, at a cost of up to £3,000 per child per week.

Mayor Stuart Drummond wanted to see business cases before committing to anything.

He said: “We have fewer resources to work with and to start something new is going to be a bit of a drain. I want to see some figures first.”

Independent councillor Hilary Thompson said: “This is a response from the children, a plea from them which gives it more weight.

“We either do it ourselves or look at another authority to work with.”

Independent councillor Cath Hill said she thought it was a “great idea” and called on the council to have the “courage of its convictions”.

Officers will produce two business cases. One would see the authority run its own home and the second would see homes developed and managed in town by another local authority, possibly Stockton Borough Council.

Scrutiny members were impressed with the facilities in Stockton.

Senior officers say there will always be some children that need to be housed out of town due to their exceptional needs.

Sally Robinson, assistant director of safeguarding and specialist services, said: “We need to be responsive to the needs of our children.”

The children’s home plans was among a series of recommendations in a scrutiny report into the provision of support and services to looked-after children and young people.

Labour councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher, chair of the children’s services forum, said: “It is the will of members, the young people involved and the officers to improve the lives of young people.”

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

Officers say there were a number of reasons it closed including a lack of integration into the community, too wide a mix of young people and the size of the home, which had six bedrooms.

Since then, the care needs of youngsters have been met through foster care, independent foster care agencies and a small number of out-of-town residential placements for those with complex needs.