Lancashire Council will close two of its children’s homes this year, and three more by 2013, under plans to cut costs and reduce the number of teenagers in residential care.
The closures will reduce the local authority’s children’s homes by one-third – from 15 to 10 – and the number of residential places from 90 to 60.
Councillor Susie Charles, cabinet member for children and schools, said: “In Lancashire, we have twice as many teenagers in residential care homes as in other similar authorities.
“We want to reduce that number because we do not believe that this is always the best environment for a young person. Instead, we intend to give families early support before the point at which relationships break down,” she said
Charles acknowledged, however, that residential care will always be the most appropriate placement for some children, “particularly those with very complex needs”.
“We have some outstanding children’s homes in Lancashire providing a high standard of care, and we will ensure this option remains available for those who need it,” she said.
She added that the council was aware that “these are complex and sensitive services, which is why we are spreading the changes over three years”.
Community Care understands the council plans to redeploy as many members of staff affected by the change as possible. Young people currently living in the homes will be moved into foster care and, where possible, returned home.
“We are constantly looking for new foster carers including those who might be able to offer a home to a teenager,” Charles said.
One residential child care worker based at a private children’s home in the county told Community Care there was “shock and anxiety” about the plans. She dismissed the council’s explanation that the closures were designed to reduce the number of teenagers in care, saying they were “more likely to be about saving money”.
In January Lancashire Council announced plans to shave £179m off its budget over the next three years.
The move follows a number of children’s homes closures around the country. Essex Council will close its seven children’s homes by the end of the year. Gloucestershire Council has already closed all its children’s homes while Birmingham Council closed two homes this year and two last year.
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