Essex children's care homes closure plan challenged

A teenager is taking Essex County Council to court to challenge its decision to close seven of its children's care homes.

The boy, who cannot be named, currently lives in one of the homes the authority is proposing to shut.

Earlier this year the Conservative-led council approved plans to place 29 children into privately-run homes.

At that time it said this would cater for their specific needs, rather than putting them in beds that were free.

On Thursday, lawyers for the National Youth Advocacy Service, acting on behalf of the teenager, will ask a judge at the High Court to review the decision.

They are expected to argue the authority had not given enough consideration to the individual needs of the children and the disruption it would cause them.

'Child led'

They will also say the council is failing in its legal duty under the Children Act to provide a suitable amount and range of accommodation for children going into care.

Essex County Council said it was not appropriate to comment on the case until it had been decided.

When the decision was made in June, 29 children were in the homes.

When it announced the decision, the authority said the children would be moved to alternative accommodation, either private or charity-run, based on their individual needs.

At the time, Sarah Candy, cabinet member for children's services, said finances were not the driving factor for the move and it had been a "child led" decision.

The closures are expected to save the council more than £1m per year.

The case is expected to last two days.

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