Council care homes in North Yorkshire for vulnerable young people are being axed and will be replaced by two centres as part of a £6m shake-up which council chiefs claim will offer a more comprehensive service under one roof.
It is hoped bringing more services together will ensure some of the county’s most challenging and vulnerable young people get the help and support they need and reduce the numbers ending up homeless or in the criminal system.
Bosses at North Yorkshire County Council say the changes will also save cash at a time when its budgets have faced huge cuts and it is having to reconsider how it provides services. They argue the shake-up will help staff to deal with issues at an early stage, rather than leaving them with a costly bill to intervene in a crisis.
Yesterday Edward Timpson, MP, children and families minister, who is himself the son of foster parents, welcomed the scheme saying: “I’m hugely excited to see what this venture achieves.”
Nearly half of young people who come into care in the county are the victims of abuse or neglect and the other half experiences a mixture of acute family stress, family dysfunction and socially unacceptable behaviour.
Alongside this over 60 per cent face challenges with their emotional and mental health, up to 60 per cent have a speech, language and communication need, nearly 40 per cent have special educational needs and one third of adolescents have been recently cautioned or committed an offence.
The scheme, the first in the country to attract over £2m of Government cash, will replace all traditional council-run care homes with two centres in Harrogate and Scarborough.
Centres will offer a range of services from residential care home beds, emergency shelter, community and foster family placements, supported lodgings and each will have a support team including a clinical psychologist and a speech and communications therapist.
Each adolescent in the care system will be given one key worker who will stick with the young person through thick and thin to access the services they need in a bid to offer much-needed stability in their lives and try to reduce the numbers in care. The county council has put £4m into the project.
Pete Dwyer, North Yorkshire’s Director of the Children and Young People’s service, said: “Given what we know about the difficulty of those entering care to form stable and constructive bonds we believe we have developed a model which will help to prevent the breakdown of placements for troubled teenagers.
“Also through therapeutic intervention and outreach support the model will help to prevent entry into care. We have every confidence that this model will prove highly effective and gain national currency.”
It is hoped the project will helped to reduce the numbers in care in the county from 446 to 400 and it is hoped that early intervention will slash £2m a year from council budgets by reducing the need for expensive residential placements.
Council bosses claim savings will also be made by reducing the numbers being remanded into custody and those going missing from care.
Since 2011, the council has brought in and made plans for total cuts in its spending of around £170m.