Dorset Council plans new children's care home

Dorset Council plans new children's care home

Published by George Sharpe at 6:57am 5th September 2019.

SOME DORSET children living in care outside the county could be back within months.

Director for children’s services Sarah Parker says if all goes well Dorset could be bringing the first of its children back to the county within 12 months.

Dorset Council has adopted a policy change which will see it open a new residential care home, or homes.

The director says the new venture will be nothing like the image many people have of residential care homes and will offer a stable therapeutic setting with the young people living in them closer to family and friends.

Councillor Andrew Parry says bringing the county's looked after children back to Dorset could save the council £600,000 a year

Cabinet brief holder for the service Cllr Andrew Parry has pledged that the new set up will be safe and fit for purpose.

“This is a big, and bold step to take, to protect our most vulnerable,” he said at Tuesday’s council cabinet meeting, which unanimously backed the move.

Cllr Parry says that the decision will also reduce travelling costs for families, social workers and other professionals and help contain rising costs on the annual £11.5million looked after children budget, with the potential to save £600,000 a year.

Dorset Council currently only has one residential centre, the Cherries in Weymouth.
Dorset Council currently only has one residential centre, the Cherries in Weymouth.

Of the 425 children currently in the care of Dorset Council around 175 are in external placements, although some will need to stay because of the specialist care they receive.

A report to councillors said that if the overall number of children in the care of the county can be reduced to 395 it would need to create 30-40 residential places in Dorset. It anticipates that once a site, or sites, have been identified there would be a consultation with neighbours before making a final decision. It suggests that these homes, or one home with attached units, may be council-run, or established in partnership with an outside provider.

The county now only has one residential centre, at the Cherries in Weymouth. Two other homes, in Dorchester and Cattistock, were closed by the former county council in the last months of its existence after receiving poor reports.

 The Cherries site could be a possible setting for a new residential home, or part of its surrounding land sold off and the money used to invest elsewhere. The option is just one of several being considered.

Sarah Parker told cabinet members that  residential homes will always be a last resort with the priority to place children in care with other family members, or foster carers, where possible.

“Children and young people in care should have the right to be placed in a family setting, as first preference, but this is not always possible due the continued impact of past trauma, or because of the availability of the right match. In these circumstances, we wish to strengthen the role of residential provision as an intervention which prepares for the transition to a family placement or return home.”

Cllr Tony Ferrari said he had no doubts that the closer a child was to home while in a residential placement, the better it was: “I wholeheartedly support this move,” he said.

Council leader Cllr Spencer Flower said he was also confidence that what he described as an ‘innovative’ decision would help achieve the right outcomes for young people the council looks after.

Work is already underway investigating if any buildings which the council owns might be suitable, with action anticipated by January 2020.

By Local Democracy Reporter, Trevor Bevins