All secure children’s home placements are to be coordinated by Hampshire County Council from early May, the government has announced.
The plan will see Hampshire create a dedicated unit that will handle the national administration of secure home placements, including keeping track of what homes have vacancies.
Decisions on where to place children will, however, remain with the placing authority and the secure home.
The Hampshire-run unit will also collect and share data on demand for placements, the flow of children in and out of the system, and the characteristics and needs of the young people involved.
The unit will operate for up to 18 months, “pending decisions on long term change”.
In a letter announcing the plan, children’s minister Edward Timpson said the move aims “to bring greater co-ordination to the way that local authorities place children into secure homes”.
Timpson’s letter also said the Department for Education (DfE) will be inviting secure homes to bid for funding to pay for activities to boost their capacity, including paying for specialist training on working with children with the highest need.
The DfE will also start converting Youth Justice Board secure home placements into welfare placements to prevent places being lost from the system. This, said Timpson, “should prove hugely beneficial given continued high levels of welfare demand”.
The letter also said the government intends to spend more money on improving mental health support for children in secure placements with an additional £1.4m in 2016/17 followed by £2.8m a year over the next three years.