Children’s care home could close

MOVES to close a Stannington children’s home will be put to councillors today (Thursday).

Plans have been put forward by Northumberland County Council to close the Kestrel and Kingfisher House units at Netherton Park over fears they do not come up to standard. And the authority has warned that if no action is taken it will face a £1.2million annual loss in residential services as its current model relies on selling beds to other councils, which have withdrawn from placements.

Service Manager Karen MacDonald has reported that the number of young people accommodated at Netherton Park is no longer appropriate if the service is to achieve the required outstanding grade in inspections and significant funding is needed to maintain the fabric of buildings as some areas are in a state of disrepair.

She adds that the home is isolated from the wider community and the high number of adolescents on one site can create challenges in managing bullying and violent behaviour.

The proposal is to move provision from Netherton Park to smaller community homes in local areas, reducing total beds from 16 to 12 across four properties.

There would also be a reduction in staff. The council estimates that recurring savings of £500,000 could be made.

A report to the Families and Children’s Services Scrutiny Committee states: “The current provision at Netherton Park is not cost-effective, nor is it able to meet the presenting needs of young people who require residential childcare placements.

“To address placement demands, the service will need to be transformed and modernised if it is to meet required efficiencies, Ofsted key judgement criteria and the changing needs of children and young people.

“The potential savings will allow the service to continue to provide good and in future outstanding residential care at competitive bed price, whilst providing immediate efficiency saving to NCC.”

The committee will meet this afternoon to discuss the report.