Another “safe haven” set to open for Anglesey children in care
Another locally-based “safe haven” is set to open on Anglesey as children’s social services brace themselves for increased demand with Covid-19 continuing to ravage the economy.
A report has revealed that Anglesey Council took more children into its care during 2019/20, mirroring a general trend across the country as authorities struggle to cope.
There were 161 looked after children in the care of the council on March 31 2020, representing an increase of 12 compared to a year earlier.
But with the most vulnerable usually having to be sent for private and often out of county placements, it has regularly resulted in the department overspending its budget.
Last year’s overspend of £155,000 would have been much higher were it not for a £1.39m one-off cash injection.
But the report, presented to scrutiny committee members on Tuesday, noted that more of the authority’s own housing stock is being set aside to provide a safe haven on the island for children needing care – while also realising much-needed cash savings.
2018 saw the authority approve the establishment of such Small Group Homes (SGH’s), where children can live in a family-like setting, with round-the-clock support provided by one 24-hour and another additional carer.
When adopted – with the average annual cost of a private placement set to be £212,744 per child – it was initially planned to set-up two such homes with more to follow later.
But with two already up and running, the authority has confirmed that a third is set to open before Christmas.
The homes, each containing no more than two children and serving those aged 8 or older, allow the youngsters to continue living on Anglesey as well as avoiding costly private placements.
“The service have worked tirelessly to maintain the level of children being looked after,” noted the report.
“(But) despite the best efforts of the service, the demand has increased by 12 children over a 12 month period.
“We are expecting to open the three Small Group Homes imminently, which will result in a reduction of costs in out of county and non standard placements.”
But despite seeing a reduction in referrals during the main lockdown, which was put into place in March, fears remain that its only a matter of time until children’s social services witness a spike in cases.
Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service in June, council leader Llinos Medi said the full effects of the pandemic were unlikely to be clear “for several years”, bracing herself for a social services backlog after lockdown measures were lifted.
Addressing the Corporate Scrutiny Committe on Tuesday, Cllr Alun Roberts raised concern that several family issues are currently being “hidden behind closed doors,” and if the service was seeing issues which had been “bubbling under the surface” now coming to the fore.
He added that with the furlough – or job retention scheme – set to end at the end of October, there are additional fears that unemployment could spike and place “even more strain on already stretched families.”
In response the Interim Director of Social Services, Fôn Roberts, said that “while it may be a little early” to judge, the department had already noticed a small increase in referrals since the reopening of schools earlier this month.
He added that headteachers “were aware of their responsibilities,” in that regard.
By Gareth Williams – Local Democracy Reporter
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