Concern over future of secure homes

Social care leaders remain worried about vacancy levels in local
authority secure children’s homes despite a recent decline in the
number of empty welfare beds.

Directors fear vacancies for welfare placements could force the
closure of some of the homes and the loss of a vital source of care
for vulnerable children.

The number of welfare vacancies steadily increased from none in
June 2004 to 44 in April this year, according to figures from the
Youth Justice Board, but dropped to 18 earlier this month, out of a
total of about 150.

John Coughlan, chair of the children and families committee at the
Association of Directors of Social Services, said 18 vacant beds
still meant a large proportion of the sector was standing empty.

“It is impossible to tell whether this is a blip,” he added.

The ADSS, the YJB, the Department for Education and Skills, the
Commission for Social Care Inspection and the Secure Accommodation
Network are set to meet next month to discuss the issue.

Coughlan said councils had experienced difficulty getting beds for
welfare placements in the past and had consequently stopped
commissioning them.

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