New local children’s homes will help cared-for young people to thrive in their communities

ypical British terraced houses

South Gloucestershire Council is currently in the process of purchasing three homes that will provide support and stability for those more in need of help in our communities.

The new Children’s Homes will help the council build local capacity to ensure that more young people, who cannot live with their families for various reasons, can have a stable home and appropriate help, when they need it and where they need it, in order to get the best start in life.

The council acts as Corporate Parents to a number of children in the district and has a responsibility to support them in much the same way as any other family. We do not currently have enough homes in the district, meaning that too often we need to find homes for them miles from their communities. This can cause major disruption to their education, support networks and family connections. The new homes we are buying will allow more of these children to remain in or to move back to their own areas.

The three properties will look just like any other family homes in appearance and for the children living there and for their neighbours, feel as close to that as possible. Each house will be for up to three children, aged between 11-17 years old. They will be nurturing, warm, welcoming spaces.

The houses will be owned by the council, but managed by a specialist provider, who will support young people through trained carers, who will aim to give them the safe home environment which they may not have had in the past.

We know that if we can keep these young people living locally, they will have much better outcomes, because they can maintain links with their family, friends, school and other services they receive.

South Gloucestershire Council Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, Cllr Maggie Tyrell, said: “All children deserve to be part of their local community, with access to good resources such as parks and recreational areas. Where a young person’s family is unable to look after them in the way they need, the council sometimes has to step in and act as a Corporate Parent.

“In that role, we want what all parents want for their children, which is a bright future. That starts with a stable home, support and care and allows them to grow and thrive and to achieve their potential.

“Young people from South Gloucestershire should be able to grow up here and if there is disruption to family life that shouldn’t mean that their schooling, circles of friends and local connections are also disturbed. There are currently not enough local places for us to do this work, which is why we are in the process of buying three properties here.

“These children are a valued part of our community and so we want to be able to help them grow up here, and provide the help they need to overcome whatever setbacks they may have experienced in their young lives.”

Care leavers have told the council how important it is for them to stay local wherever possible, and as part of a council commitment to help young people shape the support services they need, it is important that their views are heard. One said: “Young people from South Gloucestershire shouldn’t be moved miles and miles away from their hometown, because it’s isolating and makes you feel more alone then ever and depressed. Children should stay in South Gloucestershire, so they get to stay close to their social workers and support networks”.

Katie, one of the council’s participation officers, added: “Social networks are a vital foundation for young people. Feeling included and supported and the importance of maintaining social connections for children in care and those leaving care cannot be underestimated.

“Keeping children and young people connected to their positive social networks, such as school and youth clubs, by staying in their local area can help them manage what can be an upsetting experience of entering care.”

In order to protect the young people, the new children’s homes will be anonymous. The organisation appointed to run them will share our values and will provide nurturing support as well as a point of contact for neighbours to make sure the children are accepted, welcomed and included into their communities.

The policy of increasing the number of homes locally available to look after looked-after children is driven by the facts that not only can finding alternative homes for young people far away, often through private providers, be more costly, but that experience for young people also leads to more disruption, which can set them back further socially and in education, making it harder for them to overcome family disruption.

The council’s proposed model requires the purchase of three, five bed properties with two private bathrooms, with good outside space including ample parking, allowing space for up to three children and two staff members. The purchase of the first is complete, a second is under offer and a third has been identified and negotiations are ongoing.

The council is also in the process of commissioning a provider whose skilled staff will support children and young people in these homes. We expect to complete this process in May 2024.

Once that provider has been identified, the council will work alongside them to engage with local communities to explain in more detail how these homes will be run and how any issues that may arise can be managed.

Councillor Tyrell added: “We look forward to being able to provide a better future for all children and young people from South Gloucestershire in South Gloucestershire.”