Council-run home for children backed

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PLANS to open a new council-run children’s home in Hartlepool have been approved.

Hartlepool Borough Council will run its own four-bedroom children’s home in a bid to save money and cut down on the cost of placing looked-after children in independent homes.

It will help keep youngsters in town and save the local authority up to £110,000 a year, say council officers.

Members of the cabinet committee approved the plans.

A property has been identified and work is ongoing to secure it for use as a children’s home.

Senior officers are not yet in a position to reveal where the property is but will be consulting ocal residents and councillors.

Sally Robinson, assistant director child and adult services, said the council is hoping to pick the property for free from a partner organisation.

Independent councillor Cath Hill, who said she had already had calls from concerned residents about its location, said: “Everybody wants one but most people do not want it near their house and we have to be ready for that.

“It is up to us to explain to residents that these children are Hartlepool children and, as elected members, we should be fighting for those children and young people and not allow ourselves to be swayed too much by people whose concerns are not always the most rational.”

A fellow cabinet member, independent councillor John Lauderdale, also spoke in favour as did Labour councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher, chairman of the children’s scrutiny forum.

Coun Akers-Belcher said: “We would be quite visionary if we go down this line.”

The cabinet gave officers permission to start formal discussions with a housing association for a property transfer.

A range of options had been put forward including one or two homes developed and managed by the council or homes developed and managed by another local authority in Hartlepool. The average cost of four placements in an independent home is £2,862 a week per child, or £597,000 annually for the four placements.

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.

Cabinet members heard there is also the potential to sell placements to other local authorities if there were ever empty places.

In 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.

Before the home can be opened there is a rigorous evaluation process, including an inspection, and the 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, in Flint Walk, in September 2003.