COUNCILLORS have been reassured Flintshire’s new children’s care home facilities will open on time.
Flintshire Council’s social and healthcare overview committee met to receive an update on its ‘Care Closer to Home’ strategy.
It is a strategy aimed at keeping children in care within their community and local area, relying less on out of county placements which also bring costs to the council.
Having not provided in-house residential care for children for decades, Flintshire is setting up and running its own children’s care homes with several facilities due to open this year.
The former Tŷ Nyth care home building in Mold is due to open in May to support the reunification of children with their families.
Y Dderwen, also in Mold, is due to open in June, designed as a long-term modern home for looked after children.
Another facility Mesen Fach is due to open in September, a ‘crisis’ flat designed to offer short term emergency support to children. Two small group homes in the county are also set to open in April and August, one in Mold and the other in Shotton.
But a report to the committee stated that recruitment to staff the homes had been a challenge and a risk to the council.
Chairing the meeting, Argoed and New Brighton Cllr Hilary McGuill (Lib Dem) asked whether the opening of Ty Nyth was on track.
The authority’s Social Services officer Mark Holt said there had been an upturn in recruitment within the last few weeks.
He said: “We are still on course to open on the dates that are in the report and we have been really successful in the last four to six weeks in recruitment. We have had a real boost since January.
“Although we’ve had a lot of challenges in recruiting there’s been a shift and certainly since January we’ve seen that across the board which is really encouraging.
“With the last few people going through our HR processes, we will be up to a full staff team which is fantastic.”
Hawarden Ewloe Cllr Dave Mackie (Ind) asked whether there was any indication yet whether the council-run care facilities would be more cost-effective for the authority in the long run.
This was answered by Craig Macleod, the council’s senior manager for Social Services, who said that the use of out of county replacements would continue for some time yet.
He said: “We’ve already got children in the system that are out of county that are already in settled residential placements.
“We will enter a three-year transition phase where we start to build our infrastructure in-house as we reduce children’s residential care but you can’t do it immediately overnight.
“I just need to manage people’s expectations – out of county placements will continue to be a pressure but this is part of the solution and making sure it’s a sustainable solution.
“In terms of the costs, it’s not significantly cheaper to do it in-house because there are minimum staffing requirements, a lot of the overheads are around staff, insurance, food, all of those costs will be with us.
“On average, to run a four-bedroom home you are talking about £500,000 a year.
“Some of the positives though are that we are able to control the quality of that care, the outcomes, preparing those young people for transition so they leave equipped to become part of our community as adults.
“It’s not just about the finances, it’s about the outcomes of all those things coming together.”
Mr Macleod added that there would be savings with staff not having to travel around the country for visits, instead travelling to Mold, Shotton and Deeside.
He added: “This is the beginning of the journey, not the final destination.”