Stoke-on-Trent City Council is planning to make the cuts to its small group homes, which provide residential care and support for some the most vulnerable children in the local authority’s care.
There are currently 14 small group homes in Stoke and five are set to be closed under the plans.
One of the homes earmarked for closure is already vacant and eight children currently live in the remaining four homes.
According to council documents the move has been made as part of “an overall review of residential placements with the movement to supported accommodation and other providers where appropriate”.
“This is to ensure that children are in an appropriate setting according to their needs,” states budget plans that have been submitted to members of the council’s children and young people’s overview and scrutiny committee.
Dave Evans, Stoke Council’s cabinet member for children and young people said the closures come as the local authority partners with other councils to improve adoption and looks to recruit more foster carers.
“This is absolutely not about the quality of our small group homes – they provide excellent care with very dedicated staff and does not mean that small group homes do not play a part in the care we provide,” he said.
“We are now part of a new regional adoption agency, which sees us working with three other local authorities. We are also recruiting more foster carers – this means there are less requirements for the small group homes.
“Children's social care is about supporting children in the right place in the right way and we want to have the right mix of care options in place to support this. We also want to prioritise permanent loving homes for the children in our care wherever we can.”
He added: “Supporting children is our number one priority and it is only right and proper that we regularly review all that we do, particularly in light of our Ofsted inspection last year.”
The £1.2m children’s home cuts form the bulk of £1.9m worth of cuts across children’s services planned for 2020/21. This also includes a saving of £228,000 to overhaul school support including careers advice and education welfare. A review of commissioning contracts around special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) as well as mental health support could save £250,000.
Children’s services at Stoke City Council were handed Ofsted’s lowest rating following an inspection in February 2019, with inspectors particularly concerned that vulnerable children were not being safeguarded.
Last November, a report by the government appointed commissioner, Eleanor Brazil, found that the council is not able to improve its children’s services on its own.
Stoke has been told to link up with a local authority with a strong track record of delivering children’s services.