More residential homes for children could open in Dorset

More residential homes for children could open in Dorset

Published by Maria Greenwood at 10:44am 28th August 2019.

Dorset may undergo an about-turn in its policy over residential homes for children - opening, instead of closing them.

Over recent years all but one of the rural county's residential homes have been shut with many troubled children switched to expensive units, sometimes hundreds of miles away, and often costing several thousands of pounds per child, per week.

The last two local homes to shut were run by the previous county council at West End House in Cattistock and Maumbury House on the Manor Park estate in Dorchester. 

Only the Cherries at Weymouth now remains open offering residential places. However, the site is expected to eventually be sold for housing, with a new unit built for the children currently cared for.

Child Eye

A report to councillors next week says that if the overall number of children in the care of the county can be reduced to 395 it would need to find 30-40 places in children's homes in Dorset.

'Foster carers'

Part of the previous council's strategy, continued by Dorset Council, has been to recruit additional foster carers to look after troubled young people. The last report on this admitted that progress had been slower than expected and it could still take a year, or more, to be anywhere near the necessary level.

In a paper to the Cabinet meeting on September 3rd, the council says that it is once again looking at finding more residential places within Dorset.

It claims this will be better for the children, being closer to home  - possibly saving £600,000 in a year, compared to the cost of using external providers.

child holding hands

The report anticipates that once sites have been identified there should be a consultation with neighbours before a final decision. It suggests that these homes, or one home with attached units, may have to be council-run, or in partnership with an outside provider.

The county currently has around 425 children in its care.

By Trevor Bevins, Local Democracy Reporter