November 12, 2021 1.01 pm

Plans for £1.5m children’s care homes as referrals surge during pandemic

The new homes will tackle ‘spiralling’ out of county care bills

Lincolnshire County Council wants to build two new children’s care homes in a bid to tackle “spiralling” costs of ‘out of county’ care.

The authority’s Children and Young People Scrutiny Committee next week will be asked to approve a recommendation to to convert Strut House in Lincoln into a new children’s home and to find another children’s home in either East Lindsey or South Kesteven.

Strut House currently provides a short break residential unit for children and young people who have a disability, but at the same meeting councillors will be asked to agree to move the service to refurbished residential accommodation at St Francis Special School.

Spending on out of county care has increased by 155% since 2016/17, rising from £4.534million to £11.548million in 2020/21.

The rate of children in care has also increased rapidly and officers say the current provision is “insufficient” to meet demand.

Although the report notes the impact of the pandemic and says £3.986million was met from COVID grants it says next year the forecast will be £10.666m with £4.127m being met from the Covid grant.

The report before councillors said: “Increasingly the scarcity of good quality placements has resulted in costs within the private sector spiralling.

“LCC has a history of lower demand across social care and a strong balance of internal placement provision, compared to the national average.

“The impact of the pandemic has seen an increase in children in care and less children exiting care.

“Historically Lincolnshire only placed children and young people in external residential provision that had the most complex needs.

“This is changing, as the council now places children with lower needs out of county due to a lack of capacity within in-house provision.”

Data in the report shows that as of August 23, 2021, there were 99 children and young people in external placements, compared to 46 in 2018/19.

The biggest increase was in children aged five to 12 – which is 31, compared to nine in 2018/19.

The report said however that while the 13-plus age group was the lowest cohort of care starters, their weekly average cost of a placement is the highest among all of the age cohorts.

The £1.5million spend will come from a 10-year capital programme agreed in 2019.

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