Ten new children’s homes set to be built in Somerset

Efforts to improve the lives of children in care across Somerset have been given a boost following a grant from central government. Somerset County Council made a commitment in July 2021 that it would open ten new children’s homes by 2026, allowing children with complex needs to be supported without sending them miles away from their families. The Department for Education (DfE) has now provided just over GBP1m towards the purchase of these new homes, on top of a GBP3m commitment within the council’s own capital programme.

The DfE is providing grant funding to local authorities to provide new and improved children’s homes over a three-year period, with all funds having to be claimed and spent by 2023. Jonathan Bacon, the DfE’s deputy director for looked after children, confirmed in a letter to the council just before the local elections that a provisional grant of GBP1,026,722 has been approved. : Marine Lake in Weston-super-Mare to reopen after GBP300,000 refurbishment

He said: “Your bid evidenced a clear and significant need of provision within the geographical area and provided an innovative approach which addressed the different needs of children in residential care. Your approach to innovation and the realisation of improved outcomes for children was exceptional, as you had clearly evidenced that you had consulted closely with young people to identify their needs.” The council will not run the homes directly in-house, and has not confirmed where it intends for the new facilities to be located.

Instead, Rugby-based Homes2Inspire will run the homes and provide the education and specialist fostering over a ten-year period, on a contract which could be worth up to GBP70m. “In 2020/21, the council commissioned 83 residential placements for children its care at a cost of GBP15.5m per year – 16.2 per cent higher than the same number of placements would have cost two years ago. If the current system had been left in place, the council estimated it would be spending nearly GBP86m a year on residential placements for children by 2031/32.

: Nearly 100 new homes will be built in Chard despite phosphates crisis, says developer “Under the new system, the rise will be much slower, reaching just over GBP38m by 2031/21 – a difference of more than GBP47m a year. A spokesman said: “The grant funding from the DfE will contribute to the purchase and preparation of these properties, enabling the GBP3m capital funding approved in July 2021 to go further in acquiring these much-needed facilities for vulnerable children’s needs.”

The council has not confirmed the planned locations of the other nine homes, or how many children would be house there in the short term.