‘Safe haven’ to open for Anglesey children in care and avoid remote placements

A fourth safe haven is to be set up on Anglesey to ensure fewer  “heartbreaking” situations where children in local authority care are sent away on remote private placements far from their home communities.

First approved in 2018 with an initial two, the Small Group Homes (SGH’s) are designed to offer a family-like setting, often while the children are waiting for a more permanent placement.

While not suitable for the needs or circumstances of every child taken into care, each of the ‘Cartrefi Clyd” offer round-the-clock support provided by one 24-hour and another additional carer, containing no more than two children and serving those aged 8 or older.

Their establishment has allowed those youngsters to continue living on the island and maintaining their access to Welsh medium education, while the authority also avoids having to pay for costly private agency placements.

Such private accommodation can cost over £200,000 a year per child, having previously resulted in Anglesey and other authorities overspending their Social Services budgets amidst a rising and often unforeseeable trend of more children being taken into care.

But expected to soon open a third property, it has now been confirmed that a fourth is now also in the pipeline at an undisclosed location on the island.

According to Anglesey Council, with the cost of purchasing the properties being funded thanks to the Welsh Government Integrated Care Fund (ICF), their establishment is also resulting in savings of approximately £84,000 a year per child.

Recent figures showed that there were only two Anglesey children placed out of county compared to 13 at the end of 2018/19.

While initially hoped that the SGH’s could be taken out of the authority’s existing housing stock, it was said that Care Inspectorate Wales ruled out such a move due to regulations regarding the sizes of the rooms.

“Our family-style homes enable looked after children from Anglesey to receive care on the island, attend local schools and participate in community life as opposed to potentially being placed in accommodation further away from the local community they are used to,” noted a report presented to the Corporate Scrutiny Committee.

“Our first two homes are now fully occupied and staffed, with a young person in our one bedroomed property and two children in the second home.

“The third property which will provide short breaks for children and young people with learning disabilities has now been completed and registration has been submitted to Care Inspectorate Wales (CIW).

“The fourth property will mirror the model of our other two small care homes for Looked After Children.”

Likely to have experienced trauma derived from abuse, neglect or loss at some point in their lives, the need for specialist care has seen many children placed in accommodation a considerable distance from their families and communities, be they with foster carers or residential homes.

With such isolation likely to only exacerbate their trauma, private placements can be incredibly costly to the local authority that’s responsible for their care.

In one instance, a child living in one of the recently set up homes was able to see their mother on his birthday for the first time, “enabling children to maintain the relationship with those who are important to them and to support their sense of identity.”

Hailing their benefits the council leader and portfolio holder for Social Services spoke of one “heartbreaking” scenario where a Welsh speaker on the island was previously sent on a placement in England.

“We have been punching above our weight when it comes to applying for these grants, so we’ve been very fortunate and now have three properties that we’ve purchased,” said Cllr Llinos Medi.

“They will be added to the council’s housing stock, which adds value to the authority. It’s not just a revenue saving, but an increase in assets as well.

“I’m sure all of us want the best for our children and offer them the best opportunities.

“My most important role as a councillor is being a corporate parent and I’m pleased to say that we have taken advantage of this outside funding to invest in these homes, meaning that the children can attend local schools.

“I remember attending an activity for looked after children, and seeing the taxi taking one Welsh speaker back over the border.

“That broke my heart. He should have been on Anglesey but thankfully he does live on Anglesey now.”

The report was unanimously backed by the Corporate Scrutiny Committee.

North Wales Chronicle | Anglesey