One of the county council’s 11 children’s homes has been closed because the authority “doesn’t need it”.
Evergreen children’s home in Ilkeston, the exact location of which we cannot disclose for safeguarding purposes, has been closed by Derbyshire County Council.
The authority says that it will soon be reused, but only for a year, to temporarily house kids from another children’s home in Swadlincote – Linden House – which is due to undergo major refurbishment and part-demolition, thought to cost £1.2 million.
Last year, the authority overspent on its children’s homes by £374,000 – bringing its spending to £4.7 million.
It said that £691,000 of this was “due to higher levels of additional hours, overtime and use of relief staff to provide levels of care required by Ofsted”.
The county council currently has 11 children’s homes, of which four are for children with severe disabilities and seven are for young people with a range of needs.
In September, the county council stated that this year, children’s homes were projected to overspend again, but this time by £477,000.
It said that this was due to the “additional costs of providing staff who are awake in the homes overnight to ensure that children with challenging behaviours are appropriately supervised”.
This week a Freedom of Information request showed that the county council spent £648,570 on Evergreen last year, with similar amounts for its other children’s homes, and that the Ilkeston home has capacity for five kids.
It also revealed that Evergreen had been closed.
A spokesperson for for the authority said: “Evergreen is closed at the moment and long-term, we don’t need it, but there’s another home that is being replaced and while we carry out that work we are planning for the children from there to move to Evergreen for about 12 months.”
Plans to replace Linden House were first discussed in 2010, with an agreement to set aside £1.2 million for the project.
In 2015, £175,000 was approved to spent from this fund to make essential repairs to the house, built in 1871.
This was for refurbishments of the five kid’s bedrooms, the kitchen, two bathrooms, addressing patches of ground floor damp, and external decoration of the building.
Plans to demolish the house to make way for a replacement were rejected by South Derbyshire District Council in May last year.
In February this year, plans resurfaced for Linden House.
The county council said that it sought to demolish half of the building along with a new extension.
A “substantial” amount of asbestos has been found in the building and both a structural engineer and Ofsted inspectors advised that the home would need significant repair work to maintain its stability – stating that it was “not fit for purpose”.
The repairs required are thought to exceed 75 per cent of the cost of building an entire new home.
Alongside this, the cost of care for children is soaring, with residential placements at outside agencies costing the county council £200,000 per year per child and £215,000 for those who are disabled or have complex special educational needs.
There are currently 28 children with complex special educational needs being looked after by the county council and the Derbyshire Clinical Commissioning Groups, at a cost of £5.2 million.
The county council has a legal obligation to look after children in the county, some of which are housed in children’s homes.
Most are housed with foster parents, these could be partnered with the county council or through a fostering agency.
The number of children in the authority’s care has shot up by almost nine per cent in just ten months from October last year to August 2018.
This has seen the figure rise from 682 to 743.
Eddie Bisknell , Local Democracy Reporting Service