SOME private children’s residential homes are backing out from accepting children from Wales because the Welsh Government wants to eliminate profit from the system, a council officer said.
Chris Griffiths said the Welsh Government’s profit elimination plans were being “driven at pace”, and that new private providers would have to have not-for-profit status when registering a residential home from April 1 next year.
Mr Griffiths, Swansea’s principal officer for residential services, said existing providers would have to be not-for-profit by April 2027.
“This is already having a massive impact and immediate impact on what is already a challenging placement market,” he said at a child and family services scrutiny meeting.
Mr Griffiths said some providers were pausing or even withdrawing placement offers for Welsh children.
Research has indicated that young people in care don’t like being placed in settings which make a profit out of them. Welsh ministers are consulting on legislation which would eliminate the profit element from both residential care and fostering services.
Scrutiny panel member Cllr Cheryl Philpott said she could understand why young people who considered they were “being used basically as a cash cow” would feel this way.
Swansea Council has around 30 children and young people placed in residential care homes, three of whom are currently outside Wales. Around 10 are in Swansea, with the remainder in other parts of Wales. Councils have a duty to ensure placements are within their boundaries, unless it was not reasonably practical to do so or there were over-riding reasons for placing a child out of the area.
Swansea Council has four children’s residential care homes and is looking to expand that provision, although Mr Griffiths said this took time.
He added that it was a challenge to recruit staff to look after children and young people in such homes and that agency workers have had to be brought in to supplement its own staff. Agency workers, he added, tended to earn £3-4 per hour more, although the council was looking to re-grade the vacant posts to make them more competitive.
The meeting also heard the council was using private companies to look after some of its children in Swansea, but they were described as small local businesses rather than private equity firms.
Cllr Kevin Griffiths wanted to know if residential homes away from Swansea which looked after Swansea children were regulated and of the same standard as the ones used within its boundaries.
He was advised that they were regulated, and that a Swansea Council officer visited them quarterly, on top of any inspections from regulators.
During a discussion about Ty Nant children’s residential care home, in Swansea, Mr Griffiths said a range of activities as well as education were available for the young people. One girl, he said, was working towards a health and safety qualification after thriving at sessions at Down to Earth Project, a social enterprise in Gower.