A secure children’s home in Liverpool will close in March over a £1m funding issue between Liverpool Council, the Youth Justice Board, and Ofsted.
Last week, compulsory redundancy notices were issued to 67 staff at Gladstone House secure children’s home in Fazakerley after the YJB decided not to renew its contract because of increased annual rates.
The secure unit opened in 1981 and can accommodate 18 young men from the North West in two units, Gladstone and Norris, but it subsequently lowered its operating capacity to 16 beds.
In 2007, Ofsted recommended that the council employed extra staff so that there were two members of staff to every child at the 24-hour facility, a council spokesperson said. The council also decided to increase its capacity to 18 beds.
To meet these two requirements, the council told the YJB last September they would have to increase annual rates by an additional £1m because of “difficulties over funding”.
But the YJB, which purchases places for children and young people in custody at secure children’s homes in England and Wales, said that after careful consideration it decided not to renew its contract because the new annual rates exceeded other local authority prices in the area.
“We regret that Liverpool City Council has taken this decision,” said an YJB spokesman.
Today (Friday, 11 January), trade union Unison organised a meeting between members of social care staff employed at Gladstone House to organise a response to the redundancy notices.
According to Unison, this is the first time in decades that frontline social care staff in Liverpool have faced compulsory redundancy.
Babs Hennessy, Unison convenor, said: “I believe our members at Gladstone face the sack because there isn’t enough money to fund voluntary redundancies, even though this is in line with Council policy and has been offered to other staff in the recent past.”
As the council kicked off celebrations today for holding the European Capital of Culture title, a staff member at Gladstone House, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “It’s absolutely crap; really rubbish. Nobody cares about us. Some staff members have worked here for 20 years.”
But a council spokesman said: “We can’t ask Liverpool taxpayers to run a unit that does not benefit Liverpool kids. Kids are placed in Gladstone House from all over the UK and we can’t afford to run it at a lost. It is a real shame. But we’re caught in the middle of Ofsted and YJB.”
The Secure Accommodation Network, which represents and promotes the work of secure children’s homes in England and Wales, is concerned that another home has closed.
Jon Banwell, chair of SAN, said that in recent years the number of secure children’s homes has fallen from 31 to 20 leaving a “patchy picture” across the country where some areas are left without provision for very complex and vulnerable young people. SAN is urging the government to develop a national strategy for secure care to prevent further closures.
The Department for Children, Schools and Families are currently carrying out research, through Deloitte, to review the local authority demand for welfare beds in secure children’s homes.
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