Extra cash for Notts children’s homes will give them ‘best possible restart’

The approval of extra cash to support the creation of four long-delayed children’s homes in Nottinghamshire will help to give children ‘the best possible restarts’, a senior councillor has said.

By Andrew Topping
Tuesday, 11th January 2022, 9:31 am

Nottinghamshire Council’s finance committee approved the extra funding to progress with the new two-bedroom properties, which will be used to support children in care across the county.

The authority initially approved the programme in March 2020, just days before the coronavirus pandemic hit.

The project was then temporarily put on hold while the council focused on emergency accommodation needs.

Saville Road, Skegby.

Each of the two-bedroom properties was given an initial budget of £380,000.

However, following a 16 per cent rise in average property prices and a 17.6 per cent hike in building materials, the council now needs more funds.

At the latest finance committee meeting, councillors approved increasing the budget by 25 per cent, giving the project an extra £380,000 to fund and deliver the homes.

Councillors were told each two-bedroom property requires, in reality, the council to purchase a four or five-bedroom house which can then be modified to meet requirements for the looked-after children.

Figures show the council has roughly 1,000 children currently in its care.

About 150 of these require placements within a children’s home, with 90 per cent of placements currently provided by the private sector.

However, the authority is attempting to move more of the service back in-house and improve the support it provides for children under its care.

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The meeting heard concerns the council is spending above average on funding the four children’s homes, with each house now given a purchase budget of more than £300,000.

However, Coun Richard Jackson, committee chairman, said he makes ‘no apology’ if the council is spending above average as it looks to give the children the best support possible.

He said: “When we think about the youngsters who are going to be occupying these children’s homes, they have had a very troubled start to life.

“They deserve something a bit more than the average and we want to give these youngsters the best possible chance and the best possible restart.

“If you look at the outcomes we’re already seeing from these homes, it’s definitely the right way to go. I make no apology if we’re spending over the average for that.”

His comments came after Coun Andy Meakin, member for Kirkby North, questioned the council’s plan to invest in a home on Saville Road, Skegby, as one of the new two-bedroom houses.

He said property prices on the Skegby road are higher than average for Sutton and branded the council’s decision a ‘mistake’.

However, both Labour and Conservative councillors rejected the claim and said the investment should be made to provide the best facilities for the children.

Laurence Jones, council commissioning and resources service director, said: “These are not just homes with bedrooms for children, they need office space for the staff and sleeping space for staff. Normally we’re looking at four or five-bedroom homes, for a two-bedroom children’s home.

“Given all the issues we have around planning, we also need to make sure there’s adequate off-road parking for staff, so we don’t have issues with planning and highways.

“The choice of buildings is quite restrictive and they need to be large homes in particular locations to meet those specifications.”

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