Council approves closure of two children’s homes
A REGIONAL agency will be used for children’s residential care after Rotherham Borough Council shuts two of its three remaining homes.
RMBC commissioner Patricia Bradwell approved the closure of Silverwood in Sunnyside and Cherry Tree House in Kimberworth, saving £1.2 million a year.
More than 60 of Rotherham’s 453 looked-after children are in residential homes and council bosses hope to cut this figure by recruiting more foster carers.
Deputy leader Cllr Gordon Watson said the policy reflected the direction of movement in children’s services across the country, but union leaders described the move as “disappointing”.
Cllr Watson added: “For the small number for whom residential care is the best option, it has to be [rated] good or better.
“The provision we are looking at for that very small number is working with the White Rose framework, which has 41 providers with 1,888 beds, all of which are good or better.”
This week’s decision means four of the council’s five homes have been closed in less than a year.
Woodview at Kimberworth Park was shut in October 2015 and St Edmund’s in Thurcroft followed in January this year. Both had been rated inadequate by Ofsted.
Union Unison protested against the closures outside Rotherham Town Hall before Monday’s Cabinet meeting.
One staff member told the meeting that Silverwood could have improved had the council given it more attention, adding: “I think this is unjust.”
And union official Robin Symonds said: “The decision is disappointing but sadly unsurprising.
“It appears that the strategy that is being employed to achieve the council’s aim of achieving an outstanding rating by 2018 is to close down the homes and send our young people out of the area.”
Children’s director Ian Thomas said: “I understand concerns about the appropriateness and quality of care. But this proposal is in response to poor care in our local authority homes.
“Children and young people are now placed in better provision.”
Silverwood had been troubled by child sexual exploitation issues and staff at Cherry Tree House had admitted that the provision was not fit for purpose, he added.
“Crash pad” short term accommodation options will be explored to avoid youngsters having to sleep at Riverside House, which has happened three times in two years.
Mrs Bradwell said: “Quite simply, these two homes aren’t good enough.”
The last remaining children’s home, Liberty House, specialises in short breaks for children with disabilities or behavioural issues.
Mrs Bradwell also approved an amended policy which will see higher payments for foster carers, with the council set to spend more than £5 million in three years.