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House approved to become children's home

A home in Oldham has been approved for use as a children’s home as the demand for children’s services continues to soar. The building in Hathershaw will become a ‘family-style’ home to up to three children in care.

The proposal was submitted by the private company Affinity Childrens Home Limited, who run another home in Walsall. The ‘specialist care home’ has three bedrooms for kids between the ages of eight to 18 on medium to long placements and two for live-in carers, who would visit on a rota basis.

A planning statement submitted on behalf of Affinity said: “The purpose of the home would be to support the children to build their confidence, help them in developing life skills and prepare them for life when they leave the home to fend for themselves. 

“The proposed children’s home seeks to replicate as closely as possible a normal family environment. This type of provision, which government policy is promoting, is to help children who often, through no fault of their own, have not had good parenting in their early years.

The application was first submitted in November 2023 and approved on February 7 this year. Planning officers granted the application a ‘certificate of lawfulness’. They noted that the building’s use was very similar to that of a family home with two parents and three children and that there was therefore ‘no material change’ to the building’s use.  

The approval comes as local authorities across the country face a crisis in sky-rocketing demand for children’s and adult social services. 

Oldham in particular has seen a rise in families with children turning to the council for help, with numbers of kids in need of support or care rising significantly since 2020. There were 539 children in some form of care in the borough last year, far above the England national average of 334, according to Department for Education statistics. 

For the council this also means large costs, including for placements at private children’s homes, which have been steadily increasing in price due in part to inflation and energy costs. 

Currently, the average cost of an independent foster placement is £911 per week (£47,372 per annum) for the council. Whilst the average cost of external residential placement is £6629 per week. 

And many of those placements are outside of Oldham, meaning children often have to travel across Greater Manchester to attend their school or visit their relatives and friends. Last year 239 kids were placed outside the local authority, with almost 50 more than 20 miles away from home. 

Oldham Borough Council have pledged to establish three local authority-run children’s homes on top of approving independent services, to ensure that more of Oldham’s children in care are able to stay locally. 

In a recent meeting considering the proposals for the children’s homes, Gerard Jones, the managing director of children and young people’s Services said: “We do believe we should be providing local homes for local children. Approximately half of our children are actually in placement outside of Oldham. 

“It would be really important for us to bring those children back, so they can go to their schools and see their families in a supported way.” 

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