Oxfordshire County Council is to open four new children’s homes within the next three years.
The decision, which goes against the trend for councils to close their children’s homes, is designed to enable the council to place more of its looked-after children within rather than outside the county.
The four homes, which should be open by April 2016, will consist of two with six beds for 11 to 16 year olds and two four-bed homes catering to 16 to 18 year olds who are not ready for supported housing.
The council believes the homes will save it more than £700,000 a year, although the £7m cost of setting them up means the authority is unlikely to see the savings for the best part of a decade.
Conservative councillor Melinda Tilley, Oxfordshire’s lead member for children and families, said: “The plan will allow us to have greater control over the quality and costs of placements. Building in-county residential home capacity will keep our children safer and improve their outcomes as well as representing an invest to save strategy for the county council in that it will reduce our reliance on expensive out-of-county placements.”
At present the council has 46 children in residential care, of which 27 are placed in homes outside of Oxfordshire at an average cost of £3,400 per week.
A spokesman for the council said the homes will improve outcomes not just provide more capacity: “The council is good at managing residential care homes. Our girls’ home is rated outstanding by Ofsted and our boys’ home is good with outstanding features. We believe that we can work with local partners in health and schools to comprehensively assess needs, provide timely support and see more children able to return home or be placed with a foster family. For those who remain in residential provision we will be able to provide a pathway that better prepares them for independent living.”
The council has yet to identify locations for the new homes and has yet to decide whether the homes will cater for specific genders.