This is in spite of the repeated claims by leading Councillor’s that foster carers were to be recruited to provide alternative family placements as the number of places in Council residential homes was reduced through home closures.
The decision to close the five homes was made as part of the Budget for 2012-13 under the previous Con-Dem council administration but the implementation has been pushed through under Labour Cabinet member Cllr Brigid Jones.
A Freedom of Information request also revealed that four young people moved on to private residential homes, and one young person to a private foster carer, known as external placements. Two young people were moved on to other Council run homes.
The cost of a contracted external residential placement to the City Council in March 2011 was £2,625, this compares to the cost of a Council care home placement of £2.569.
In November it became apparent that the Council was having difficulty recruiting suitable alternative foster carers. A Cabinet report stated that
there has been a rise in foster care recruitment recently but it is still uncertain as to how many foster carers will be able to care for more challenging young people. (1)
Why does this matter?
In December 2012 Councillor Jones repeatedly claimed in support of further Children’s Homes closure at the Budget consultation meetings that there was a moral as well as economic case for future closures. That placing children with foster families was better than placing them in Children’s Homes.
Looking at the actual destinations of the children affected by the closures the political presentation of the case for home closures can be seen to be highly questionable.
While cutting and closing in-house provision the Council has placed some of the young people in more expensive private residential homes while reducing the amount of cheaper in house provision.
Some of the young people have had to face the disruption of an unnecessary move only to be relocated to a further residential home rather than be placed with a foster family. In the consultation prior to closure most young people reported that were settled in their existing homes. (2)
What Cllr Jones didn’t tell us was that underlying the closure of Local authority Children’s Home places is the intended move by the Council to extend the commissioning of placements from the private and voluntary sector and to ‘expand our relationship with the private provider sector’. (3)
A local activist from the Social Work Action Network said:
These home closures have led to an unnecessary disruption of some young people’s lives, placement disruptions should be avoided at all costs.
A robust challenge needs to be made to any future Business case for any further Children’s Homes closures in the forthcoming year. We must demand that young people’s care should not be disrupted on spurious economic grounds.
(1) P2 Report of the Strategic Director of Children Young People & Families 19th November 2012 CHILDREN IN CARE STRATEGY PROPOSED RESIDENTIALL HOME CLOSURES (CHAMBERLAIN HOUSE, FOUNTAIN ROAD, KINGS LODGE, SOUTH ACRE AND VISCOUNT HOUSE)
(2) P3 ibid
(3) P8 ibid