INVESTING in new children’s homes — five years after closing the old ones — has put RMBC ahead of the curve, its leader says.
Four new small homes have been bought or opened after Rotherham Council committed £3.2 million last year.
It followed the 2015 and 2016 closures of St Edmund’s, Woodview, Silverwood and Cherry Tree House — as the council hoped to focus more on foster families.
But difficulties in recruiting foster parents contributed to investment in the new homes, two of which are already rated good by Ofsted.
Council leader Cllr Chris Read said: “It’s a huge piece of work.
“Some real credit is due to the service to go from the position we were in a few years ago where we were moving away from our own provision because we couldn’t attain the standard that children deserved, into a world where we are now running four of these properties.
“I think this puts us ahead of the curve and a lot of local authorities in terms of the shifting away from dependence on the private market to being able to provide high quality provision directly in the area for children who need it.”
Four managers and 44 staff have been recruited for the current four homes.
The Looked After Children’s Council has been involved, including picking the names Pegasus, Beech Tree and Phoenix for three sites.
RMBC says the £3.2 million investment will lead to an annual £936,000 saving, including by avoiding costly out-of-town placements.
Cllr Victoria Cusworth, cabinet member for children’s services, said it would also keep youngsters close to family, their communities and schools.
She added: “It will deliver improved outcomes for looked after children and enable us to ‘step down’ from residential, which should be an interim solution, to a more permanent family-based
Smaller homes have proved better in terms of looked after children “stepping down” to foster placements, Cllr Cusworth said.
She added: “There are some challenges around external recruitment and the need to continually market and recruit effectively to fill the required positions.
“We learned that we need a very experienced and stable staff supporting emergency provision who can mobilise quickly and flexibly to respond to crisis and need.”