Northamptonshire: New children's home to cut out-of-area placements
A new children's home is being set up to help a troubled local authority look after more youngsters.
Northamptonshire County Council's children's services department was judged inadequate by Ofsted last month.
Now it is proposing to spend £151,000 on a property it owns in the centre of Wellingborough and use it as a home for four children with complex needs.
The aim is to reduce the number of children sent out of the county.
The authority has been spending huge sums with private agencies to look after its children in care, with many placed in different counties and a long way from home.
The county council has had big financial problems in recent years, to the extent that the current two-tier local authority system in Northamptonshire is to be scrapped and replaced with just two unitary councils.
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Last year the council spent £23m on agency accommodation for 124 looked-after children. It only looked after 15 of the 1,118 total number in care in homes it runs itself.
The authority's Conservative cabinet will decide at a meeting next Tuesday whether to approve the budget as part of its capital expenditure, said the Local Democracy Reporting Service.
A report to the council said: "This home will provide accommodation and care for a total of four young people currently located in out-of-county agency placements."
The property is owned by the council and was formerly used as a place for giving short breaks to families with autism.
Labour opposition councillor Jane Birch, who is the shadow portfolio holder for children's services, welcomed the move.
"What the Labour group wants to do is bring the children's homes back in-house. A large amount of money is being spent on sending children out of the county," she said.
The Ofsted report said "too many" children taken into the care of Northamptonshire's children's services were being placed into residential care.