Lancashire County Council is closing five Children's Homes saving £0.7 million a year.
Their budget proposals say:
Proposal 2. – Transforming care services – reducing the number of authority residential places and the number of adolescents accommodated in children's home provision. The proposal is to reduce the number of children looked after in children's homes, especially those placed there on a voluntary basis. The aim of this proposal is both to reduce costs and improve outcomes for children, who are highly likely to experience better outcomes if they are able to be raised in their own family environment or with foster carers Currently 13.43% of looked after children in Lancashire are in residential placements, which is a higher proportion than most of our statistical neighbours (e.g. Bury 5.2%), and this proposal will bring Lancashire in line with the best of our statistical neighbours. This will be achieved through direct earlier work with young people and their families, strengthening their capacity and capability to care for a young person within their family or with foster carers. The county council currently provides 90 places for children aged 13 to 17 (not including children with a disability) in 15 residential homes. Our children's services commissioning strategy aims to reduce the number of place over time to 60 as children are increasingly cared for in other environments.
The Conservative Council leader, Cllr Geoff Driver, has said of the general budget proposals:
"I'm going to say sorry because it's not something I want to do, but it's about needing to cut your suit according to your cloth."
He certainly shouldn't be sorry about his proposal to close children's homes. He should be very proud. It would be right thing to do even if it didn't save a penny. That is because being placed in a Children's Home is the worst option for Children in Care. It should be an absolute last resort. It is a matter for celebration that fewer Lancastrian children will now endure that fate.