Lancashire in line for 15 new council-run children's homes as private sector bill rockets

More than 80 Lancashire children currently need the most specialist placements of which the county council can offer few at its own facilitiesMore than 80 Lancashire children currently need the most specialist placements of which the county council can offer few at its own facilities
More than 80 Lancashire children currently need the most specialist placements of which the county council can offer few at its own facilities
Lancashire County Council looks set to double the number of children’s homes it runs in a move the authority claims will improve the lives of young people in its care – and reduce its reliance on costly private placements.

Fifteen new facilities would be created under the plans, which are expected to get the green light from cabinet members on Thursday.

County Hall has previously revealed its intention to boost the number of council-operated homes for looked after children in Lancashire – although the figure now being proposed is far higher than anything previously hinted at in public.

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If the scheme is approved, it will bring to 30 the tally of in-house facilities – adding an extra 40 beds to the 60 already available in existing homes run by the county council.

That would make the authority the largest operator of council children’s homes in the country.

The county council says the change would make it easier to secure “the right home in the right place and [at] the right time” for Lancashire children, as well as giving them greater stability.

However, a report to be presented to the cabinet acknowledges the risk of “concerns from residents about the location and operation of homes in their area”.

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The proposal comes against the backdrop of the ballooning cost of beds in privately-run children’s homes – especially for those with the most complex needs. In Lancashire, just 15 per cent of the children in the county council’s care live in so-called “agency” homes, yet they account for almost half of the placements budget.

A recent report into County Hall’s financial performance suggested that savings achieved as a result of a reduction of the number of children in the care system in Lancashire – some of whom are in foster care – was being swallowed up by an increase in the youngsters with “extremely complex needs” who require a suitable children’s home placement.

According to cabinet papers, 83 children are currently living in homes that are classed as high cost – generating bills of £6,000 or more per week.

The authority estimates that the annual bill for its-house facilities, including repayment of the borrowing needed to buy them, will be £15.1m from 2027/28 – a saving of around £2.1m on agency placements.

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The 15 existing in-house children’s homes run by the county council are typically larger facilities designed for young people with lower-level needs. That means the authority often has to turn to private providers.

While Lancashire has more children’s homes across the private and public sector than any other local authority in England – 274 in total – 70 per cent of the private agency facilities are not providing homes for Lancashire children, the cabinet report says.

County councillors have previously raised concerns about Lancashire children being looked after in other parts of the country as a result of the lack of local placements for them.


Lancashire County Council says it wants to acquire four four-bedroomed homes, 11 two-bedroomed properties and two solo “crisis beds” in an existing children’s home.

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The facilities – both current and newly-established – would be arranged in six clusters of between five and eight homes.

They would be overseen by a ‘responsible individual’ – an official role required as part of the process of registering with the regulator Ofsted.

A group of homes within each cluster would be overseen by a Home Manager, each of whom would be responsible for between seven and eight children.

A report to cabinet members notes the challenge for a local authority of running so many children’s homes – including a possible reputational risk depending on the ratings given to the facilities by Ofsted.

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“Lancashire’s in-house service has a good track record of successful integration within communities and of operating good or outstanding homes, but it will be challenging to ensure that all homes are rated as such at any point in time,” the document states.


Lancashire's existing in-house children's homes are typically larger homes aimed at children with more mainstream, lower-level needs and behaviours.

This means it can be challenging to place children with complex needs in county council homes and the authority has had to rely on high-cost private providers.

Despite a high number of private providers in Lancashire, places can be difficult to secure as around 70 per cent of children placed in their homes are not from Lancashire.

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Dave Carr, director of policy, commissioning and children's health, said: "It is absolutely crucial for us to be able to offer the right care for our children in care, and secure the right home in the right place at the right time.

"By improving their home stability, we hope to improve the outcomes for youngsters living in our children's homes.

"We have a good track record of operating good and outstanding homes while also being part of the local community."

The new homes project would be expected to cost around £15.1m a year by 2027/28, compared to an agency cost of £17.4m, leading to a net saving of around £2.1m.

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