Birmingham children's home closure proposals 'will save £3m'

By Janaki Mahadevan

| 08 August 2012

Birmingham Council is planning to close five of its 17 children's homes with a view to saving £3m by increasing the use of foster care and adoption.

Birmingham says the closures will save money and improve outcomes. Image: Guzelian

A consultation launched this month proposes the closure of five children’s homes in line with the council’s strategy, which is focussed on placing more looked-after children in family settings.

The council argued that the homes set for closure have been identified based on their performance as judged by Ofsted. It also cited the cost of placing a child into residential care as around £2,500 per child, per week, compared with around £499 in foster care.

Councillor Brigid Jones, cabinet member for children and family services at Birmingham Council, said: “For the vast majority of looked-after children, it is far better that they grow up in a settled family environment as this improves their life chances, both emotionally and in terms of educational achievement.

“However, there will be a small number of children whose needs are better suited to residential care and we will be concentrating our resources in fewer children’s homes in order to focus on the needs of these young people.”

But Jonathan Stanley, chief executive of the Independent Children’s Homes Association, warned that the proposals by Birmingham Council may be short-sighted.

“The current separation of fostering and residential child care is unhelpful when it leads us away from making needs-led decisions,” Stanley said. “A residential placement is the preferred option for some needs and the preferred option for some young people.

“The needs of those young people who require a fostering placement or a children’s home are quite distinct. A whole system approach is required that ensures every placement decision is underpinned by social work assessment.

“We all need to be reminded that the Children Act requires the ‘most appropriate placement’ is made in all circumstances and that best value cannot trump it.

“If we were working with Birmingham we’d be encouraging them to look again at their use of their children’s homes. We need a vibrant children’s homes sector for fostering to do its job effectively.”

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