A shortage of quality care places for children in need of long-term support has prompted Staffordshire County Council to consider a new pilot scheme.
The authority is looking to run its own small-scale children’s home for three young people for 12 months to assess whether it produces better results than the current system.
A report to be considered by Staffordshire County Council’s cabinet next week says that the provision of children’s care homes is becoming increasingly dominated by fewer, larger companies – and those businesses are charging more to accommodate young people in need of medium-to-long-term support, or declining to take them at all.
Mark Sutton, Staffordshire County Council’s Cabinet member for Children and Young People, said: “Staffordshire’s children’s services are rated ‘Good’ overall by Ofsted, but one of the challenges facing us is the rising number of children and young people needing medium and long term care.
“Sometimes it is difficult finding the right placement for young people in need of help and support outside the family unit.
“It’s got to the stage where councils can be competing against each other to use the most suitable accommodation and the result is that children can be placed somewhere many miles from Staffordshire and suffer a lack of continuity at a time when stability of care and support is essential.
“We hope that using a fully supervised, discreet home in this way will allow us to provide stability, regular access to school and support services and improve children’s outcomes, increasing the likelihood of the young person returning to their family.
“We will look at the situation after 12 months to assess how much demand there has been for the home, what the results have been for those who stayed there and how much it has cost.”
The county council currently has 120 children and young people in residential placements, working with more than 50 providers in around 80 locations at an annual cost of approximately £18 million a year.
While the authority already has four in-house units, including two for children with disabilities, it has nothing appropriate for medium, or long term, residential care.
If the report is approved the authority will purchase a suitable property which doesn’t need extensive work.
Mark Sutton added: “We are focused on doing the best for the children involved, but we are also aware that the cost of care through third party providers for medium, or long term, residential care is likely to keep increasing and we have to manage that expenditure.”