Smaller homes for children under Doncaster's care in order to reduce out of authority placements

Children in Doncaster Council’s care with some of the most complex issues could soon be living in smaller homes.

Saturday, 28th September 2019, 7:37 am
Doncaster Children's Services Trust

Local authority bosses have said that matching up children with similar needs achieves ‘better outcomes’ and will save the organisation money.

The plan is to develop three homes which will house two children per placement by Spring 2020.

Bosses were responding to councillors questions at a scrutiny meeting where reports showed 29 children were being looked after outside of the local authority area – at greater cost to children’s services than if they were under in-house provision.

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The out of area budget posted an overspend of £111,000 but is being offset from underspends in other departments.

DCST has 1,107 children on their books with 320 of them under special guardianship orders – usually close relatives of the child.

Julie Mepham, from Doncaster Children’s Services Trust, said it is in many young people’s ‘best interests’ if they are placed outside of the borough.

“Some of our children need to be away from Doncaster and sometimes it’s in their best interests and a decision is made they’re placed elsewhere for a little while and then we bring them back home,” she said.

“It is our intention that Doncaster children should be in Doncaster. In the recent past, we have had very complex and challenging young people and most from his group live in children’s homes and don’t live in foster care.

“From the challenges of those young people has meant we’ve had to bring in additional staff in to manage need to ensure children and staff are safe.

“That has increased our budget but moving forward we’re looking at having smaller children’s homes in Doncaster because what we’ve recognised and this view is shared nationally is trying to put four or five children is a very big ask many having very different needs.

“So we’re looking at two-bed homes where we very carefully match two children with a staff team of six who will work with them consistently so more of a family model really.

“We know this has happened elsewhere in the country and we know from their outcomes this works better and we know from some of the complexities of our children, we know this is far better. This in turn will reduce internal and external costs.

Coun Nuala Fennelly, cabinet member for children, young people and schools, said: “This new approach of having two instead of four children in a home is good.

“We need to have the right places in Doncaster for the children that we’re keeping here and in the past we haven’t had the right type of places here.

“In the last five years that has reduced dramatically from when I first started in my role. I do think one is too many if they’re out of authority but I can appreciate the fact that they have to go elsewhere and some may never come back to Doncaster.”