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Lack of staff and spiralling costs look set to see Wisbech children's home close

By Fenland Citizen Reporter

A specialist home for children in care in Wisbech looks likely to shut because there are not enough skilled staff to safely run it and the cost of it has spiralled.

Cambridgeshire County Council is looking to close a children's home in Wisbech. (4565338)
Cambridgeshire County Council is looking to close a children's home in Wisbech. (4565338)

A report which was due to go before Cambridgeshire County Council's children and young people committee on Tuesday (9) says: “We have struggled to recruit experienced and qualified residential staff to our children’s home in Wisbech and this has meant we have been unable to place the number of children in the home that we did previously; this has resulted in the unit cost spiralling.

“Alternative provision has been identified for the two young people in residence which will meet their needs as identified in their care plans and deliver greater value for money for Cambridgeshire. Therefore the decision has been made to close the Victoria Road Children’s Home.”

The report continues: “No young people have been resident at the home since June 2018. This followed a series of events that resulted in it being impossible to safely staff the rota.

“The two young people resident at the time both moved positively to new placements.”

The committee is recommended to agree the closure of the home. Under the proposals the residential element will close, but an “outreach” model will be retained.

The report says that working in residential settings with young people with “complex needs” is a challenging task.

It adds: “A sufficient number of experienced and qualified staff within any staff team is vital if any children’s home is going to be able to meet the diverse needs of young people living there.

“Despite a number of attempts to recruit experienced members of staff, it has not proved possible to put in place a sufficiently experienced team and the home has struggled to meet the needs of young people placed there, despite the best efforts of the staff team.

“For most of the last 12-18 months, the home has only managed to accommodate two young people, significantly below the capacity of five.”

According to the report, the decision to close the home is not a reflection of the quality or commitment of those staff in post; it is an acknowledgement that the size of the home and the on-going recruitment challenges have resulted in the home no longer being viable.

The report also points out that children’s services in Cambridgeshire are facing intense pressure.

It explains savings or additional income of £33million are needed for 2019-20, and a total of £62million across the full five years of the Business Plan.

The changes are needed to balance the budget in the face of cost increases and reduced Government funding.

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