Here is another chance to discuss OCC proposals for a new assessment centre for children at risk of coming into the care system. An online petition is being copied to the Parish Council objecting to the proposals. A standard response is being sent, explaining that residents should contact the County Council with any concerns.
A second public drop-in session takes place on Wednesday 29 October from 16:00-19:00 at Eynsham Village Hall, with a talk by Lucy Butler - Deputy Director, Children’s Social Care - at 18:15. The event is being held to raise awareness and engage local people ahead of the formal planning process.
The centre would enable more of Oxfordshire’s vulnerable young people to stay closer to home and reduce the need to send children to costly out-of-county settings where the County Council also has less control over the quality of placements.
It would provide short-term accommodation for up to six children (12 to 17-year-olds) on the ‘edge’ of the care system, enabling staff to assess whether children can return home or whether an alternative placement - for instance with a foster carer - is needed.
The site at Litchfield Farm, west of the link road between Merton Close and Merton Court, is being put forward as it is relatively isolated from immediate residential neighbours whilst still having access to a town centre. It is large enough to allow a home for six children to be built with outdoor space for the children to play.
This location also meets national guidance that where possible, children should be placed close to home and away from areas of deprivation.
It is likely that some children staying at the centre would only be there for part of the week, as assessment work would also be taking place at the children’s family homes, with parents, siblings and extended family.
Keeping children safe
OCC’s Cabinet Member for Children, Education and Families Melinda Tilley said: “As well as helping ensure the safety of vulnerable young people, this would reduce the need to send children to out-of-county placements many miles away – which cannot be as effectively monitored and also cost the taxpayer more.
“There would be a constant staff presence to supervise and support young people at the assessment centre. As far as possible, we want our children to feel part of the local community but our priority is to provide a safe and secure environment for them to develop and grow.”
She added: “We all have a responsibility to help keep children safe, especially vulnerable young people who have often experienced traumatic childhoods. We want to work with local communities to provide the best possible environment for our young people.”
Plans for a further two residential centres - an additional Assessment Centre and ‘Move-on’ home for older teenagers preparing to leave care - were recently unveiled in Thame and Didcot. Plans for a further ‘move-on’ home are still under development.
Taken as a whole, the four homes would provide 20 new places for vulnerable young people in Oxfordshire, and help the council develop an improved ‘pathway’ for young people from the moment they enter, to the moment they leave the care system.