Brent Council hopes a new £2.2 million children’s care home could accommodate three children at a time - reducing the cost of sending kids miles out of the borough.

The council's most expensive placement is located 130 miles away and costs taxpayers more than £17,000 a week.

Brent Council’s children and young people team want the cabinet to sign off on the project at the next meeting (May 22), which seeks to buy a five or six-bedroom property in the borough and convert it into a care home. It hopes it will enable them to move into fostering or supported accommodation more quickly.

Council documents suggest this could save the local authority up to £461,000 a year as it will help cut the distance some children will be sent to find a place.  In August 2022, Brent’s placements were sent an average of 24.4 miles from their home address at a weekly cost of £4,700 – £200 above the national average – with the most expensive being £10,587.

However, this is now dwarfed by the current most expensive placement, which is 130 miles away and costs £17,122 a week, with the next two highest being 300 miles away and costing £13,906 and £13,726 respectively.

In September last year, the council made a successful bid for funding from the Department for Education’s (DfE) Children’s Home Capital Programme. It was awarded £1.1 million for the development of a residential children’s care home in Brent – with a requirement for the council to match the amount.

It is estimated to cost £900,000 for staff resources and a further £200,000 for running costs – which includes the repayment cost of borrowing £1.1 million over 40 years. Four of the bedrooms would be used for young people with social, emotional and behavioural needs, whilst the extra one or two bedrooms would provide a staff bedroom and facilities or an office.

Currently there are 19 children and young people placed in a residential home by the council, at an average cost of £7,739 per week. The new children’s home would care for three individuals at a time for around 16 weeks, enabling nine people to be supported each year – with a fourth bed kept for emergencies. The expected weekly cost for this per placement would be £5,309.

Aside from financial benefits, a report published by Brent Council’s corporate director of children and young people and its corporate director of finance and resources highlights the impact the home could have on young people.

It states: “The main social benefit is that young people will continue to receive care and support in their local community. This will promote their sense of well-being and provide continuity at a critical time in their lives and means that they will not lose their social, peer and familial connections.”

It adds: “Their access to education, employment and training opportunities will not be disrupted and therefore the likelihood of young people becoming NEET (not in education, employment, or training) will reduce.”

Brent Council’s cabinet will now decide whether to approve the project proposal and budget at next week’s meeting (May 22).