A new children’s home is being set up in Wellingborough in a bid to bring more looked-after children who are being housed out of the county back into Northamptonshire.
Northamptonshire County Council – whose children’s services department was judged by Ofsted as inadequate last month – is proposing to spend £151,000 on the property it owns in the centre of Wellingborough and use it as a home for four children with complex needs.
The authority has been spending huge sums with private agencies to look after its children in care, with many places in different counties and a long way from home.
Last year the council, which is currently one of the worst performing in the country, spent £23m on agency accommodation for 124 looked-after children. It only looked after 15 of the 1,118 total number in care in homes it runs itself.
The authority’s Conservative cabinet will decide at a meeting next Tuesday (Aug 14) whether to approve the budget as part of its capital expenditure.
The report says: “This home will provide accommodation and care for a total of four young people currently located in out of county agency placements. This will have the dual purpose of improving quality of outcomes, via the benefit of wraparound care and other services, and reducing the revenue costs associated with maintained care. This scheme delivers part of the wider development pool scheme to provide housing for children with complex needs.
The property is owned by NCC and was formerly used as a place for giving short breaks to families with autism.
The move to create a children’s home has been welcomed by Labour opposition Cllr Jane Birch, who is the shadow portfolio holder for chidren’s services.
She said: “What the Labour group wants to do is bring the children’s homes back in-house. A large amount of money is being spent on sending children out of the county to be looked after.
“We need to be able to keep in touch with them and we do not want our social workers having to travel across the country to see them, which will mean fewer visits.
“I think creating small family type environments is the way forward as the children deserve to be in good surroundings.”
The Ofsted report said that ‘too many’ children taken into the care of Northamptonshire’s children’s services were being placed into residential care. They said this was because the authority had too few foster carers.