‘Use or lose’ secure homes, councils told

The body that represents local authority secure children’s homes
has urged councils to make more use of their expertise in caring
for vulnerable children.

Mary Graham, chair of the Secure Accommodation Network, said it
would be a “real tragedy” if a high rate of vacant welfare beds
forced secure homes to close. “Use it or lose it might be the
message we need to take to government,” she added.

At a conference run by SAN, it emerged that the future of one home,
St John’s Secure Care in Northamptonshire, will be discussed by the
county council next week.

Jane Heynes, manager of St John’s, said the 16-bed unit, which
employs around 70 staff, had come under closer scrutiny from the
council since losing a Youth Justice Board contract to look after
young offenders last year.

That had guaranteed the unit a certain amount of income but it now
mainly depends on filling welfare beds bought by local authorities
in spot purchases, meaning it is more susceptible to market

Heynes stressed that the unit was not making a loss, but pointed
out that the council would have to pass on costs to
Northamptonshire’s council tax payers if it did.

She was optimistic, however, that the council would decide to keep
St John’s open because demand for beds was strong.

Although the Department for Education and Skills has pledged to
investigate the reasons for vacant welfare beds in Laschs, Heynes
said it needed to move faster.

“The economic process is very fast while the political process is
very slow,” she said.

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