Calderdale could soon have two more small-scale children’s homes, enabling the authority to house more of its looked-after children who need placements to remain in the borough.
One home opened earlier this year and will soon house a fourth young person, while work is under way to buy two more properties to convert into similar small-scale children’s homes, members heard.
In June 2021 there were 344 children being looked after by the council with numbers remaining relatively stable during lockdown triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In all 96 of the children are in external placements, with 38 fostered and 33 leaving care.
Of the 25 children and young people in residential care, 13 are placed outside Calderdale’s geographical boundaries – five in specialist provision which meets their needs.
The other 12 are placed inside Calderdale, nine with one local private provider with whom the council has a block contract.
To try and get more children and young people housed within Calderdale, if it would be beneficial for them – and with external placements costing thousands of pounds a week in some cases, in-house availability is more cost effective for the council – more two to three-bed homes are needed with board members hearing some of the young people cannot manage their behaviours in larger homes.
Field Heights, a newly refurbished five-bed residential home at Illingworth, Halifax, opened in January.
And the council’s Assistant Director for Early Intervention and Safeguarding, Rob Murray, told the board negotiating the purchase of two more properties, following Cabinet agreement, is well under way, despite recent rising property prices.
“We have identified two properties and put in offers for two, but we are putting in an offer pending full evaluation of work that would be needed to refurbish the property,” he said.
An initial shortlist of 100 properties was whittled down to around half at which officers took a closer look before settling on the two, although he had to be careful about revealing where they were at this stage.
“At the same time we are looking for new residential homes the private sector are too, so we have to be careful about what we say about where they are – we don’t want to lose properties,” said Mr Murray.
Coun Dot Foster (Lab, Sowerby Bridge) asked if ward councillors could be kept informed as they were often asked things constituents had heard “on the grapevine”.
Mr Murray said they would be kept in the picture and when the council was going ahead there woulkd also be a process of engaging with residents. They key thing with therse homes is that they were units catering for a small number of children and young people.
Board Chair Coun Colin Raistrick welcomed the news. “I am quite encouraged. Given everything you said about the state of the housing market it would be a beaurocratic nightmare and if you are making progress, I am pleased,” he said.