Council to open two children’s care homes

Two new children’s care homes will soon be set up in Bristol to meet rising demand for teenagers needing care and accommodation. The homes will give care for teenage boys with criminal records and children with challenging mental health problems.

The care homes are expected to cost £911,000 to open, which will be funded by a grant from the Department for Education. Bristol City Council will refurbish two buildings it owns, and then commission a provider to run the care homes.

The council hopes the homes will reduce the number of expensive out-of-city placements for children needing care, saving money and providing a better environment for the children. The decision was signed off by the council’s cabinet on Tuesday, January 24.

Labour Councillor Asher Craig, cabinet member for education, said: “The care population in Bristol is growing. It’s likely to rise by 5% in the next year, and we are already struggling to find placements to meet the needs of our most complex children. This spend will help us to try and reduce the number of children who are placed in expensive placements outside of the city, improving outcomes while also reducing our overall expenditure.

“The [first home] will enable medically fit children who require clinical and social care to be discharged from hospital settings within suitable timescales. The second is a home for adolescent boys aged 15 to 17 with challenging and aggressive behaviour. This will provide a therapeutic setting for restorative care for young men with criminal justice involvement, and where exploitation is part of their risk profile.

“We need to develop more in-house provision in Bristol because we are currently at the mercy of the market — and the market is killing us financially. It’s so expensive to send some of our children outside of the city.”

Over the past three years, increasingly more children in Bristol needing care have been sent at least 20 miles away from their home, according to a cabinet report. This rose from 21% in 2019–20 to 23% in 2021–22. There are relatively few children’s homes in Bristol, partly due to the very high general cost of accommodation in the city.

There are 727 Bristol children in care currently, with more children expected to need care in the next few years. The council already struggles to find care placements for children with very complex needs, and these are often extremely expensive. At the moment 17 young people aged over 15 are placed in residential care outside of Bristol, each costing the council between £300,000 and £830,000 a year.

Marvin Rees, mayor of Bristol, said: “We have a growing population, our young people have been under phenomenal pressure, and families have been under phenomenal pressure, particularly over the last few years. That pressure is still with us, so we anticipate more need coming through the system, so we have to begin to increase our ability to support people.

“Existential threats in 20 years time are very real. But we want to create the emotional and financial space for the people, who are too easily left behind and left out of council debates, to think about more than the next week of their existence in this city and on this planet.”

By Alex Seabrook, Local Democracy Reporting Service