Council back plans to buy up properties to ensure children in care stay within Wrexham
Wrexham Council’s plan to buy up properties to ensure children taken into care can stay within the county borough has been backed.
The authority’s Executive Board voted to support the use of Welsh Government funding to purchase properties, enabling children to stay close to their local community and avoid being placed out of county.
At their monthly meeting, the Executive Board looked at the proposal for the council to buy and adapt four properties over a four-year programme at a cost of £2.5m.
The properties will be small residential homes accommodating two or three children at a time.
Speaking at the meeting, opposition member Wynnstay Councillor Malcom King (Lab) said he supported the plan but added that the authority needs to communicate with the ward members where the homes will be located to defuse rumours surrounding them.
He said: “I am in very strong support of it. We need to have more small council run children’s homes.
“We need to keep the local member informed. I’ve had a children’s home in my ward for 40 years and you wouldn’t know it’s there, it has a great relationship with the neighbours.
“If you do it in the right way, it’s not a problem.”
Leader of the Council, Cllr Mark Pritchard (Ind group) praised the Welsh Government for providing the funding to enable the authority to push on with the ‘Care Closer to Home’ project.
He said: “I thank the Welsh Government. The truth is that if we didn’t have the money from them we wouldn’t be able to fund it.
“Let’s hope that when we look back in the years ahead, we will have delivered eight homes, 10 homes, subject to demand.”
The report was presented by lead member for Children’s Services, Cllr Rob Walsh (Ind group), who in a media briefing ahead of the meeting said the proposal could make a big difference to children taken into care.
“When children become looked after by the council it is always stressful for them”, he said,
“We’ve always gone by the view that if we can’t keep children in their immediate or extended families, then we will try to keep them in their communities.
“Out of county placements are a last resort. Not only are you taking (children) away from their family but their communities.
“This project, where we purchase new homes for children to be cared for, will keep them in the county and as close to their community as possible.
“Keeping children as close to home as possible will help them as they make their journey into adulthood.”
Investing in this project and reducing out of county placements will save the council money but Cllr Walsh stressed that the main reason it is happening is for children’s wellbeing.
The Executive Board unanimously approved the proposal.
Two properties have been purchased already which will be ready shortly and the council is looking to buy four more properties over the next few years. They will be council owned and council run.
By Rory Sheehan – BBC Local Democracy Reporter
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