A new home for children who are taken into care is set to be opened in Nottinghamshire.
A decision is yet to be made on exactly where it will be built, but it is expected to be around the Mansfield and Ashfield area, and will house four children.
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The Conservative-led Nottinghamshire County Council hopes it will bring down costs in the long run, by reducing dependency on contracting private homes for children in its care.
Currently, the council has three children’s homes with a combined capacity of 11 places.
Another 86 children are in residential homes provided by other organisations, at a higher cost.
The council has set aside £550,000 to buy the home and refurbish it.
But the scheme has been criticised by Labour councillors for not being ambitious enough, and for lacking detail.
The leader of the council, Councillor Kay Cutts, who represents Radcliffe-on-Trent, said the council was “dipping its toes in the water”, and if it proved successful more homes could be bought.
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She said: “As a council we do have to provide for looked after children. We currently do not have sufficient places in our own council homes.
“I believe we are in the right process now rather than going out to the private sector to find homes for the children for which we have responsibility.”
Labour councillor John Peck, who represents Sherwood, said: “We asked for this paper to come back to members with greater detail and as part of a proper strategy for placing our children in residential care. The council leader refused our request.
“So, we decided to abstain on this item, as while we are in favour of the principle of children in care being placed in a small family home setting, we felt the report did not provide sufficient information.”
Conservative councillor Philip Owen, who represents Nuthall and Kimberley, said: “Having more capacity within the county ensures the council can place more children who need residential care close to home. It also reduces exposure to the rising cost of placements on the external market.”
It comes just after it was revealed that the social services arm of the council had gone £8.5 million over it’s already-stretched budget, due to a sharp increase in the number of children being taken into care.
Almost 100 more children were taken into care last year, compared to the year before.
The council has estimated the cost of running the home will be £700,000 a year – less than the £800,000 it estimates it would cost per year to accommodate the children with external providers.
Kit Sandeman , Local Democracy Reporting Service