Walsall Council cabinet will consider a proposal to increase the number of in-house residential children’s homes in the borough when it meets on 16 June 2021.
The plan will see an additional two council-owned and operated children’s homes established, bringing the total number to four. There are currently two such children’s homes in Walsall, following the closure of a third last year.
The new model will provide improved quality of accommodation for children in care in established residential areas with good access to transport and easy availability of community resources and activities.
Councillor Timothy Wilson, portfolio holder for children’s services said:
“Local authorities, including Walsall, are facing increasing challenges placing vulnerable children and young people in safe, secure and permanent residential placements. Reliance on external residential children’s homes is not sustainable and — most importantly — in many cases does not offer the local support, stability and security children in care need.
“The proposed redesign of the service for Cabinet’s consideration is about investing in new family homes so that more children in our care can be supported locally in as close to a family environment as we can provide to give them the best possible start in life.
“By increasing the number of local residential placements we can offer, children can live, grow up and go to school in the community they identify with, with greater stability and continuity of education and health care.
“It is the council’s absolute priority that all children are happy, healthy, learning well and safe from harm and that the right supports are in place so that children in our care have the best opportunities to make positive contributions to not only their own lives but the wider community.”
Each of the two new children’s homes will offer residential care for up to three children and operate in a way that more closely reflects positive family life, with shared activity paramount and the creation of close nurturing relationships and pride and ownership of home emphasised.
The plan involves capital investment of up to £1,071,000 from the council’s approved 2021/22 capital programme for the acquisition, adaptation and equipping of two appropriate properties in Walsall. The total cost of external residential placements in 2020/21 was £9.323 million.
Notes to editor:
- As at the week commencing 10 May 2021, Walsall had 675 Looked after Children, of which 60 (9%) were living in a children’s home. 38% of children in care in Walsall were aged between 10 and 15 years.
- At December 2020, 16.2% of children in care were placed more than 20 miles away compared to 12.7% in April 2020, reducing to 14.2% in April 2021.
- A review of Walsall’s Children’s Homes provision was undertaken in 2020 to enable the council to understand the benefits, costs and opportunities of increasing the number of internal children’s homes for Walsall’s Looked After Children. The outcome of the review recommended a redesign and diversification of the internal children’s homes for an alternative and forward thinking option for the future service delivery of residential care provision for children in Walsall.
- The proposals for a redesigned residential service are to:
- maintain the existing council owned and operated children’s homes at Hilton Road and Redruth
- dispose of or repurpose the council-owned and operated Lichfield Road children’s home
- create two, three-bedded children’s homes, on a phased basis, to provide care for those more complex needs. The homes will also provide care for those young people whose placements are disrupting and no other placement is available. The homes will also work with children to enable them to return back to their family or a foster family.
- Care-experienced children contributed to the initial scoping exercise, as did professionals from other teams and agencies. Through engagement with the Children in Care Council, Walsall’s care-experienced children will be consulted on the plans to redesign the local authority children’s home service. Children and young people will continue to be involved in the design and delivery of the new homes and engagement will widen to include community consultation as suitable properties are identified.
- For further please see the published cabinet papers on the council's committee management and information system.