FURTHER concerns have been raised about the number of children’s residential homes opening in Swansea for young people from outside the area.
Relatively cheap property prices in the county are attracting private providers to places like Swansea, a group of councillors was told.
Swansea currently has 13 homes registered with Care Inspectorate Wales (CIW), with at least four more due to open in the next year. Only one of them is a Swansea Council-registered home.
The report before the councillor scrutiny panel said Swansea has far more children’s residential places than it needs while areas with higher property costs, such as Cardiff, have very limited provision.
“While some providers may be happy to operate on this basis, it has an impact on the children being imported into Swansea, and it has an impact on local services who are struggling to support greater numbers of vulnerable and complex children,” said the report.
In March, South Wales Police Chief Superintendent Martin Jones said his officers were dealing with missing children and taking care of young people in crisis at weekends due to the increase in children’s residential homes in Swansea and Neath Port Talbot.
He said: “In these homes there are about 110 children and they’re being brought in from outside Swansea and Neath Port Talbot, that’s putting massive strain on police resources and on social services, and other resources in health.”
Swansea Councillor Mike Durke cited the chief superintendent’s comments at the scrutiny meeting, and said: “Is this a child protection issue if we have not got the resources to deal with it?”
Cllr Durke wondered if the issue was raising any “red flags”, and said he felt CIW should not be “signing off” new residential homes in Swansea.
CIW said local authorities determined planning applications for these homes, and it does not have the power to refuse registrations based on the number of services already in an area.
A CIW spokeswoman said: “CIW’s role is to ensure only those providers who will deliver high-quality and safe services are given registration to do so.”
It is a nuanced picture as Swansea, like most authorities, has a small number of young people in care who are looked after elsewhere because it lacks the specialist facilities and resources required.
A very small number are in residential care in England to promote their safety as a result of sexual exploitation concerns.
“It is a complex landscape,” said Julie Thomas, head of child and family services.
“These are all our vulnerable children.”
Speaking after the meeting, a council spokesman said it worked to ensure all vulnerable children lived within permanent, stable, secure and loving families – preferably their birth family or community of origin – where possible.
Nowadays 65% of children who enter care in Swansea are looked after by in-house foster carers. Five years ago the figure was just 35%.
The average weekly cost of an in-house foster placement was £411 in 2017-18.
As of now the average weekly cost for an external foster carer nationwide is £692, and up to £4,300 for residential accommodation, which includes education and health costs.
Swansea’s child and family services department spent just over £38m in 2018-19, with just under half of that going on accommodation services.
Asked of this proportion was rising or falling, the council spokesman said: “The budget is volatile depending on the numbers of young people requiring care, although the residential numbers have significantly reduced and of course placement costs.”