Camden’s top politicians to explore joining scheme to build secure home for London’s most vulnerable children

Camden Town Hall

Town Hall bosses are looking at funding a secure children’s home for some of London’s most vulnerable youngsters because of a lack of suitable places nearby.

Camden councillors are considering whether to join a proposed pan-London commissioning group to fund 24 spaces for children closer to home, as a shortage means some vulnerable youngsters are being placed in homes in Scotland.

Children who are high risk of hurting themselves or others, or risking their life, can be moved to a secure children’s home if no other kind of placement would keep them safe.

However there is a national shortage of secure children’s homes, with none in London.  This means children can be placed an average of 192 miles away from home and can lose contact with their families and local education and training links.

An average of 12 children from London were in secure homes each month over the last year – with three each month more than 450 miles away in Scotland.

A survey of London councils estimated there was a shortfall of at least 225 places, driving up costs with overspends exceeding £100m.

Camden Council has only needed four secure placements in the last four years but has sometimes not been able to find any spaces in the country.

So far in the first eight months of this year, the number of places needed by individual councils ranged from none to three.

Over three years, London councils referred 295 children to secure homes but only 159 received places.

Secure children’s homes are “a locked environment” and children’s “liberty is restricted”. Whilst there they get “trauma aware and psychologically informed integrated care, health and educational services”.

According to a report for Camden’s executive, children who are placed in secure homes “are likely to have experienced a number of placements that have broken down, missed a lot of education, have unmet emotional and physical health needs and have suffered a great deal of trauma in their lives.”

The report said the homes can “provide a safe place where these very vulnerable children can receive the care, education and support that they need”.

Alternative places can be costly, with some councils facing bills of up to £20,000 a week, with one paying £49,000 a week, according to the Association of Directors of Children’s Services.

The Department for Education has committed £3m to develop the scheme, with a further £50m expected if it goes ahead. The funds are being held by Barnet Council.

A long list of 400 possible sites were considered and whittled down to two. Experts are now looking at one potential site for the home.

Each London council is expected to contribute £20,000 a year to run the not-for-profit company that would develop and oversee the running of a home for children in the capital.

Camden’s cabinet is set to consider the plan next week.

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