Agenda item


Purpose of the report:

To consider a proposed approach to developing the capacity of children’s homes in Surrey to enable the longer-term ambitions of the Council’s Looked After Children and Care Leaver Sufficiency Strategy 2020-2025, ahead of formal proposals being considered by Surrey County Council’s Cabinet later in 2022.




Sinead Mooney, Cabinet Member for Children and Families

Tina Benjamin, Director – Corporate Parenting

Chris Tisdall, Head of Commissioning – Corporate Parenting


Key points raised in the discussion:

  1. A Member questioned why the ambition was not for 100% of children to be placed in Surrey. The Director explained that it was felt that 80% was a realistic target based on forecasting. Some children were placed outside of Surrey and that was the most appropriate placement for them.


  1. A Member questioned when it was known that extra capacity for children’s homes was needed. The Director explained that it was about the type of children that were coming into care, as some of the expansion was for children with disabilities. The Head of Commissioning explained that there was a grown in the numbers of children and young people and therefore, they needed to grow the infrastructure. Surrey had 17 Council-run children’s homes, whereas Hampshire and Kent had around 70-80 each. The Cabinet Member added that there had been an awareness for some time, which was why the strategy was developed.


  1. Responding to a query on the number of beds required, the Director explained that 50-60 beds were considered realistic in a three-year strategy. The Head of Commissioning added that 50-60 should be right, but would double check the numbers The strategy also included reducing the number of teenagers requiring residential places and increasing their position in the external market. It was not necessarily about having children in homes long term.


  1. The Chairman asked about the risks to the children and the Council of using un-regulated placements. The Director reassured Members that the service tried to avoid such placements as much as possible. Due to a national shortage of places, it meant that sometimes they could not be avoided. There were mitigations in place to ensure children were as safe as possible and during their placement, the service would try to find an alternative placement. Each local authority had a small cohort of these children and the Council talked to Ofsted monthly about this cohort.


  1. A Member asked why the need for care leaver accommodation had reduced. The Director explained that young adults made their own choices about where to live. There was a successful piece of work around recommissioning the supported accommodation framework for care leavers. It was about re-focusing on the area of greatest need which was children looked after.


  1. The Chairman queried whether the Council was anticipating issues with planning permission. The Director explained that they would be building large family homes with three to four children per home, and they had been successful with the two homes they were currently building. It was not just about the planning, as the Council wanted the children to join in with their local social environment. The current homes worked closely with their neighbours to ensure positive relationships.


  1. A Member enquired into the plans to support children to return to home with their families. The Director explained that there was care planning which was about achieving permanency for children. When a child was in care, there would be a review on a sixth monthly basis where reunification of a child and their family would be considered. There was a reunification programme which supported families when a child returned home. The Council’s long-term stability figures were above the national average.

Mr Alex Tear left the meeting at 2:35pm.

Actions/requests for further information:

  1. The Head of Commissioning (Corporate Parenting) to confirm the target number of children’s beds and explain how this figure was arrived at with regard to current shortages.


  1. The Head of Commissioning (Corporate Parenting) to confirm a date by which the intention is for 80% of Surrey’s looked after children to be living in Surrey.


  1. The Select Committee endorsed the overall long-term sufficiency ambition that every Surrey looked after child has the choice to remain in Surrey, where this is appropriate to their needs, accepting the current working hypothesis that this means planning for 80% of looked after children living in Surrey by a date to be agreed.


  1. The Select Committee endorsed the proposed recommendations set out in this report that are planned to come to Cabinet on 29 November 2022, to support the implementation of the Council’s Looked After Children and Care Leaver Sufficiency Strategy 2020-25.

Supporting documents: