Swansea Council may shut children’s homes in restructuring of services

Two children’s homes in Swansea could close under plans to restructure the council’s child and family services.

The department is expected to have a £6.5m overspend this financial year, with nearly half relating to children in the council’s care.

The council has received two critical reports into its child protection services since 2007 and in March a team was appointed to oversee the work.

Councillors will decide later whether to begin consulting over the closures.

The restructure aims to reduce the number of children in residential care, and reduce the length of time children spend in the system.

The two homes proposed for closure are Ty Cwm and Ty Gwaun in Cockett.

Ty Cwm is already empty, following a refurbishment earlier in the year, and Ty Gwaun only has one resident at present.

A report by council officers said the buildings were not designed to be residential homes for children and young people and concerns about the facilities have already been expressed by both the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW) and Action for Children.

If the homes are closed, they may be used as contact centres for supervised visits between children in care and their families – at present the council pays to use external facilities at a cost of between £1,000 and £2,000 per week.

Reduce workloads

Money saved from their running costs would be channelled towards developing an emergency out-of-hours outreach team, recruiting extra foster carers and developing a multi-agency intensive support team for children with complex needs.

The report says restructuring of the service, once fully staffed, should avoid the need for agency staff, which currently costs £0.9m per year.

It should also reduce average workloads of social worker and support staff, which are higher than nearby authorities, according to research.

Swansea cabinet members are to consider the report at a meeting on Wednesday afternoon and decide whether to approve a recommendation to begin a formal consultation process on closing the two homes.

In March, the Welsh Assembly Government announced it was appointing a board of experts to oversee the council’s social services following concerns it was failing to protect young people, the first time such a move had been made in Wales.

Another inspection of the service will take place in January.