Cautious insurers put question mark against future of children’s homes

Fears that hundreds of children’s homes could close because
insurance firms are refusing their business were sparked this week
after a private provider was 24 hours from shutting down its homes
because it could not get public liability cover.

Tony Harris, director of SES Care, which runs homes for some of
the country’s most vulnerable young people, including those on
secure orders, was preparing to close the homes because insurers
said they were no longer taking “high risk” contracts.

But the homes were saved after a last-minute u-turn by the
company’s original insurers which decided not to terminate the
contract because Harris had run homes for 25 years without any

Harris said: “It was definitely touch and go and we are really
angry about it.” He added that his unblemished record had persuaded
the insurance company to renew the contract but he predicted that
homes which had experienced trouble would have difficulty getting

In the past fortnight he said he had spoken to around 30 private
providers, one of which was a national company with 50 homes, that
were experiencing the same problems.

Secretary of the National Association of Independent Resources
for Children, Joan Jerrett, said: “We have received a lot of calls
from people who have been having trouble getting insurance. We have
been especially busy over the last few weeks because many homes’
policies are up for renewal.”

One member was given 10 days’ notice by her insurance company
that it intended to end its contract and “although she eventually
found a company, it was a bit hairy” said Jerrett.

Later this month NAIRC plans to address the problem at a board

Meanwhile, providers now aim to set up a consortium to tackle
the issue and are calling on the National Care Standards Commission
to take action on their behalf.

But a spokesperson for the commission said that although it was
aware of cases where providers had experienced difficulties getting
insurance, it did not yet view the problem as serious. She conceded
that the three-month-old body might find that as it carried out
more inspections it became a bigger issue. “If it does become a
problem then we will raise it as part of our first year of
operation meeting with the government,” she added.

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