The Head of Children’s Services introduced the report and stated that there was a long history of children having to leave their Local Authority area to access residential care but that in Newport we were trying to address the national shortage of care and keep our children as close to home as possible. We had our own portfolio and had maintained our own homes for a number of years and had been committed to providing good quality residential care.
The Cabinet Member for Social Services told the Committee that this had been one of the most rewarding schemes that he had been involved in and the report reflected the commitment of all involved. He stated that we led the way in Wales and our achievement had been looked at by others as how to do things well. The new way of working meant through Project Perthyn that we had no locked doors and no office as we provided a home environment, which was as close to a family home as possible. We had a ‘cwtch’ approach in place, understanding the need for children to receive hugs and in turn learn about appropriate physical touch. Project Perthyn strove to establish and maintain the trust and confidence of our children. These facilities were real ‘homes’ for children and the comments from the children themselves reflected the dedication of the staff and demonstrated how they appreciated the manner in which they were cared for.
Members asked the following:
-Was the provision in place sufficient for the numbers of our looked after children and what provision was in place for the varying needs of these children?
The Head of Children’s Services stated that we currently had 368 children and this figure was steady. The vast majority of these were in foster care and there had been a big push to recruit foster carers. The number we needed to have in residential care was relatively small. There was a small group of children with very complex needs and mother and baby units that we were unable to provide for and had to be placed outside of the Local Authority. We were currently close to the ceiling of what we needed for residential care in Newport with no emergency capacity at present. Emergency placements were a major challenge for us and an area we would continue to look at.
- What was the provision for respite care?
The Head of Children’s Services commented that we would continue to have children in care so would continue to seek out the best ways of providing care. Oaklands house struggled during the pandemic to provide respite care. 2 children there needed long term care but it was hoped that they would be able to move on by end of year. We looked constantly at models of respite care. Newport City Council commissioned Ty Hafan on occasion and this was very particular specialist provision. Also some schools away from Newport provided respite care and specific foster carers for respite care, some which had very specialist skills. Newport City Council strived to try and look at what was best for the child and their family. Going forward we would be looking at potential regional provision.
- What was the date for the opening of Windmill Farm and the position regarding staff following the closure of Cambridge House.
The Team Manager confirmed that works to Windmill Farm were currently on schedule and on track to open in January 2022.The home manager had just been appointed and it was anticipated the Councillors could visit in December prior to opening.
Following closure of Cambridge House all staff who had wished to had been retained and employed elsewhere. There had been no compulsory redundancies.
- What was the situation in neighbouring Local Authorities and what were the cost savings for our model of provision?
The Head of Children’s Services responded that the number of Local Authorities that had their own in-house provision was very small so whenever they needed a residential bed then they would need to purchase it and competition for these was therefore very high. Newport had on occasion offered a short-term bed for another Authority, at a cost, but we were fortunate in having our own provision as this relieved the pressure on us somewhat. She stressed that the cost of our in-house provision was not a cheap option by any means, the costs were extremely high but the costs of placements were huge, one English authority currently paying in excess of 30 thousand pounds a week for a placement. Whilst there were some voluntary sector providers and charities that provided care, the majority of care was provided by private businesses and was traded as an equity. Even accepting that ours was an expensive provision and we were committed to funding and resourcing appropriately, calculations would suggest that in the long run, we would be making savings. Going forward, this was a piece of work that would need to be looked into fully so that the exact costs and savings could be calculated.
- What was the situation with the amount of Foster Carers and the role of the wider community?
There was a TV advert for Foster Wales, together with advertising throughout the city in the form of banners, posters etc. We had had a surge of applicants last year but this had balanced out now but we would always require more foster applicants.
The Chair thanked the Head of Children’s Services for her presentation and congratulated her and the staff on a very positive report.