Councils plan major cuts to children's homes to balance books

Neil Puffett
Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Two councils have announced plans to cut spending on children's homes provision as part of efforts to reduce levels of spending within children's services.

Gateshead Council has proposed closing the two children's homes it runs, making alternative arrangements for children currently living in them. It estimates the move would save it £435,000 over the next two years.

Meanwhile Blackpool Council has said it will conduct a review of three children's homes it runs. It has estimated that it can make £800,000 of savings, out of a total of £1.98m it needs to cut from its children's services budget for 2016/17, this way. However, it has not outlined where the £800,000 will come from.

It is unclear how many other local authorities are considering cuts or closures of children's homes, but it is not the first time a council has taken such action. In 2013 Essex County Council announced plans to close all 12 of its children's homes.

A report on the proposals in Blackpool reveals an intention to save £400,000 a year in spending that currently goes on a respite home for children with disabilities. A further £400,000 would be saved each year on the running costs of two other homes for looked-after children.

Blackpool plans to make a further £868,000 of savings through "general efficiencies", £50,000 through a reduction in the children's social care team, and £260,000 through cuts to young people's services.

The council said it has identified children centres as protected areas alongside street cleansing and school crossing patrols.

A report by Gateshead Council states that 10 young people currently live in the two children's homes it runs. It states that one option is to secure alternative provision via specialist foster placements and external residential placements.

A second option being considered is scoping out the feasibility of entering into an agreement with an external provider to run the two homes at a reduced cost.

News of the plans in Blackpool and Gateshead come less than a month after Prime Minister David Cameron announced that a major "root and branch" review of children's residential care will be conducted by government adviser Sir Martin Narey.

There are currently more than 8,320 children and young people in children’s homes throughout England, making up around 12 per cent of the total number of children in care, with councils spending more than £1bn a year.

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