Bristol City Council is confronting a significant challenge in finding suitable placements for children in care, leading to placements as far as Manchester, Staffordshire, and Cornwall. A recent report to the people scrutiny commission revealed that these are often children with significant trauma, necessitating placements due to high self-harm or challenging behavior.
With 752 children from Bristol in care as of October, a growing trend indicates that more children are being placed in care homes located over 20 miles away from Bristol. This has risen from 21% in 2020 to 25% in 2023, exceeding the national average of 17%.
Fiona Tudge, Director of Children and Families at Bristol City Council, expressed concern over the trend, stating that the lack of local residential children’s homes is pushing children further away, proving both undesirable and costlier for the council.
The national housing shortage exacerbates the situation, allowing market forces to influence costs. Companies managing children’s homes are reportedly making “high levels of profit,” adding financial strain to the council, which is forecasted to overspend its £89 million budget by £12 million this year.
To address these challenges, Bristol City Council plans to double the capacity of its own children’s homes over the next 18 months, increasing from 14 to 31 spaces. Two new children’s homes are also in the works, with one focusing on children with mental health needs to reduce hospitalizations. The other home is tailored for teenage boys with aggressive behavior and involvement in the criminal justice system, aiming to provide specialized support for rehabilitation.
In summary, Bristol City Council acknowledges the pressing challenges in child placement and is taking proactive measures to expand capacity, establish specialized homes, and address financial strains. The council remains committed to providing optimal care for vulnerable children, ensuring their well-being and a positive future.