A private care provider is taking legal action over the Youth Justice Board’s decision to withdraw its contract to run the last secure children’s home in London.
Glen Care Group, which runs Orchard Lodge home in south London, argues that the YJB’s tendering was “flawed” and in breach of European policy.
The home, which provides 16 YJB places and eight for welfare cases, could be at risk of closure when the company’s contract runs out in July, leaving no YJB places in secure children’s homes in London.
A Glen Care spokeswoman said the YJB had cited “poor standards” as one of its reasons for ending the contract, but the home’s Ofsted rating had improved to “adequate” since Glen Care bought it in March 2006.
“There is no question of not going ahead with a legal challenge but we cannot yet say on what grounds it will take place,” she added.
Glen Care chairman Gordon Philips said the YJB’s decision could result in children from London being sent to secure children’s homes in Bristol, Southampton, the Midlands and the North East.
Swanwick Lodge, which will be the nearest secure children’s home to London offering YJB places, is 80 miles away in Southampton.
There are also secure training centres at Oakhill, in Milton Keynes, and Medway in Kent.
In response, Youth Justice Board chair Frances Done said the tendering process was “very clear”.
She insisted that the majority of young people in the South East would be placed within 50 miles of home, as stated in the YJB’s own policy.
Orchard Lodge is one of four secure children’s homes to lose its contract from July. Sutton Place in Hull will close at the end of June, while Kyloe House in Northumberland will stay open as a welfare-only unit. The Atkinson Unit in Exeter could shut or stay open as a welfare-only unit. The YJB is offering transitional support to all four.
Done said she “completely understood” the homes were upset about the decision, but defended the reduction of 219 places in secure children’s homes to 191, saying this was due to efforts to keep young people out of custody including the use of remand fostering.
The number of SCHs in England and Wales has fallen from 31 to 19 in just five years.