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Care beds for children may be privatised
COUNCIL-FUNDED children’s home beds in York could be put under private control as part of a bid to save £200,000.
The move has been recommended by City of York Council officials and would see Wenlock Terrace, the only children’s home in York for youngsters looked after by the authority, transferred to an outside organisation.
Beds, which the council pays external providers for, would also be included in the changes.
A report which will go before Coun Janet Looker next week said research had shown private firms may be interested in taking on the responsibility. The council has earmarked cutting £200,000 from its children’s residential care budget by the end of 2013/14.
The report by Howard Lovelady, group manager in the children’s specialist services department, said the average weekly cost of children’s home provision was £2,640 and outsourcing it would significantly reduce expenditure if only one external organisation was involved.
However, he warned any changes to the nature of the service might spark “strong views on the subject”.
Wenlock Terrace’s six beds are provided to young people for between six and 12 months, after which they usually return to their families or are placed in foster care. Other options are to make no changes or stop providing local children’s home beds altogether.
Pete Dwyer, director for adults, children and education, said: “This is not a proposed closure of Wenlock Terrace.
“It is about the home remaining open and continuing to be available to meet the needs of children from the city.
“The report does ask the cabinet member to allow detailed exploration of the option of the home being run by an external provider.
“We are looking to achieve necessary budget savings, while maintaining the availability and quality of provision, and will not enter into any arrangement which jeopardises the quality of provision, regardless of the efficiency offered.”
Conservative councillor Sian Wiseman, a member of the council’s corporate parenting board, said: “The current provision of care is very sporadic and not in children’s best interests, so this proposal would benefit looked-after children and also be cost-efficient.”
Coun Keith Aspden, Liberal Democrat spokesman for education, children and young people’s services, said children must be the “key factor”, adding: “While family-based care should be provided wherever possible, it is still vital quality provision is made for residential care, so we will closely monitor these plans and continue to seek assurances this provision will be offered in York.”
Green group leader Coun Andy D’Agorne said budget cuts meant the council may have “little choice” over the changes, but he was concerned for young people and Wenlock Terrace staff if provision was outsourced.