04/01/2023

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Local & National News for Wales

A “LONG overdue” proposal for residential accommodation to look after children in care in Blaenau Gwent has been overwhelmingly backed by councillors.

At a meeting of Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council’s People scrutiny committee on Tuesday, September 6, councillors discussed a proposal to find land to build a care home, or a building that can be converted to become one.

Interim director of social services Tanya Evans told councillors that, of the current 12 children in care registered in the county borough, one was in residential accommodation in Newport, and all the others were in accommodation outside of Blaenau Gwent.

Ms Evans said:

“This business case is not necessarily about saving money for the authority it is about improving outcomes for our children.

“By having a children’s home that can accommodate four children, they can maintain their schooling, links with their family and friends and clubs they may already be involved with.”

Head of children’s services, Alison Ramshaw updated the committee that a bid had been submitted for grant funding from the Welsh Government to the tune of £1.1 million, rather than the £750,000 outlined in the report.

Cllr Julie Holt said: “I welcome this, it’s excellent and we’ve been pushing for this for a long time.”

Cllr Holt explained that she had a background working in further education as the head of learner service for Blaenau Gwent Learning Zone and had seen what happened to children in care.

Cllr Holt added:

“We would have students taken into care half way through a course and very often went into residential (accommodation) outside the area.

“This meant they could no longer attend – which is awful when they had settled in college.”

Cllr Holt said she wanted support the proposal.

Cllr David Wilkshire said:

“I fully support and endorse this, it’s the way forward and long overdue.

“A good case was made for it that the children would have more stability.”

Cabinet member for Social Services, Cllr Haydn Trollope said:

“Like Julie (Holt) I have been championing this for years – it’s what’s right for the children and the impact it would have on them.”

The report goes on to say that in 2019/20 the cost of residential placements for “children looked after” was £2.5 million.

In 2020/21 the cost had dropped to £2 million as the number of children needing residential provision had dropped.

The report indicates that average cost of looking after a child in care is up to £4,600 a week.

The number of children under Blaenau Gwent’s care has fluctuated over the last decade.

In 2013, the figure was six, increasing to 18 in May 2019 and dropping back to 12 as of March 2022.

Comments and a recommendation  from the scrutiny committee to go ahead with the proposal will be added to the report which will be discussed by the Cabinet for a decision on September 14.

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