UP to £6.3 million could be spent in Herefordshire to provide two two-bedroom homes for children in care over the next five years.
A proposal expected to be backed at Herefordshire Council’s cabinet meeting this Friday says this should save the council money over the period.
“The potential to match children and meet their complex needs is best undertaken within a smaller home”, which “would mirror as closely as is possible a family based experience”, according to a report for the meeting by corporate director for children and young people Darryl Freeman.
Current children’s accommodation is often outside the county and is becoming more expensive, while placements can be “fragile” and only partly match children’s needs, he said, adding: “The risk of not doing anything, and being dependent on a chaotic market that benefits suppliers and is volatile, is understood.”
As of last month there were nine young people in care aged 11-17 in the county for whom such accommodation would have been suitable. The council currently spends an average of £7,500 a week housing them with external suppliers.
For the proposed move to break even, the council would need to ensure its two contracted properties were at least 80 per cent occupied.
But “some individuals have some level of sexually harmful behaviour” requiring “robust risk assessment and support”, the cabinet report warns.
The contracted supplier “must have experience and confidence in meeting the needs of young people who challenge through behaviours deemed risky,” it adds.
Alternative proposals for the council to buy and run its own children’s home, or to partner with a neighbouring council, were rejected.
The council expects to choose a supplier by next March, with actual placements following within a year.
It now plans to engage with young people themselves to guide how the residential arrangement should be set up and then monitored. They will also be asked to help set rules for the homes, and decide how they are furnished.