Radical transformation of children's homes in Hampshire
Thursday, 15 May 2014
Children's homes in Hampshire are set for a radical, twenty first century transformation, if innovative plans for their re-development are agreed.
Hampshire County Council's Executive Lead Member for Children's Services, Cllr Keith Mans, will be considering proposals for a complete overhaul of residential provision on 20 May.
If agreed, the decision will lead to building some new family-sized homes and redeveloping others.
The plans will provide a total of eight houses to accommodate 33 of the 1,130 children in the County Council's care. Each house will be home to four children and include accommodation for the staff looking after them.
Hampshire County Council aims to establish a standard of care that is on a par with that experienced in a family home, with good parenting from experienced and trained staff providing a stable environment. The quality of accommodation is critical to this.
Currently there are six children's homes with five or six bedrooms that are considered to be either too large and lacking the right sort of homely environment for children or, for other reasons, are no longer up to standard for residential child care. Additionally some homes are in a less than ideal location, being isolated from local services and amenities and hampering contact with friends and family.
Of the existing homes it is suggested that three would be retained and substantially refurbished. The other three would be sold, with the money generated used for the refurbishments and building of five smaller, new homes. These would be in less isolated locations with good transport links, in walking distance of schools and easy access to leisure activities so that young people are able to develop their independence safely.
In drawing up the proposals, extensive consultation was undertaken involving both staff and children. As a result designs will take into account those features that the children identified as being important to them in a family home. These include such things as having a front door at the front of the house with a front garden and a fireplace.
Councillor Mans said: "Children in care are among the most vulnerable in any community and we regard their care as one of our most important responsibilities. The physical environment in which a child lives has a direct influence on their self esteem and confidence. I will want to be assured that the proposals, if implemented, will make a real difference and help to contribute to the children's emotional well-being and positive outcomes as they move on to independence. It will be important to ensure that the homes will be comfortable places to live and that the children will feel safe, secure and happy.
"The vast majority of children in care are well looked after by foster parents in family homes but there are a small minority of children whose needs are better met in children's homes. Our investment proposals were recently highlighted by Ofsted as evidence of the Council's commitment to residential care as a positive choice for these young people."