A leading children’s campaigner has slammed the government for failing to reverse Liverpool Council’s decision to close a secure children’s home this month over a £1m hike in annual bed cost fees.
John Kemmis, chief executive of Voice, an organisation that works with children in the care system, said the government had left vulnerable young people to the whims of the marketplace instead of planning enough places for children at local authority secure children’s homes (Laschs). This was despite a commitment in the 2003 Every Child Matters green paper to keep Laschs open.
Kemmis stressed how difficult it was to “replace and rebuild” high quality services, such as at Gladstone House, once they were closed.
Government ‘unable to intervene’
However, junior children’s minister Kevin Brennan said he was unable to intervene in the council’s decision, despite recognising the value of Laschs in the “wider provision in place” for looked-after children.
In January, 67 staff members at Gladstone House in Fazakerley were issued with compulsory redundancy notices after the Youth Justice Board did not renew its contract with the council because of annual rates which exceeded other local authority prices in the area.
£1m hike in fees
The rates jumped up by £1m after Ofsted recommended that the home increase its capacity from 16 to 18 beds and employ more staff so there were two to every child.
Kemmis wrote to Brennan, the council and the YJB, urging them to reverse the decision at the “eleventh hour” but without success. Gladstone House is set to close on 31 March.