A PUBLIC backlash aimed at Barnsley Council’s plan to spend £1m on a new children’s home has angered the local authority’s leader - who told residents the expenditure is worth every penny for the town’s most vulnerable kids.

Sir Steve Houghton told Wednesday’s cabinet meeting the council has a legal duty and that spending the money on a new children’s home is ‘morally and financially the right thing to do’.

Cabinet members voted to approve the plans, which will see £1m being spent on a suitable property, with estimated running costs for the five-bed home to be £663,976 per year.

The cost for looked-after children being cared for out of the borough is on average £3,725 per week, and a report stated the authority could save around £300,000 annually.

Sir Steve said: “I think people need to understand the council officers and elected members have a legal duty to safeguard and protect the children of Barnsley. That’s in law there isn’t a choice on that.

In Text Promo Image

“I’m not proud of some of the stuff I’ve seen (on social media) relating to this recently I’ve never been as angry as I have been this week.

“We also have a moral duty to do that for our children, particularly the most vulnerable, and particularly ones who may have lost their parents or ones or in difficult family circumstances where they need to be safe in different environments.

“This is to ensure that we’ve got the right provision for our children, particularly those vulnerable children that need it. I’m proud that we’re doing that.”

He added that looking after youngsters is ‘expensive, but worth every penny’ and that paying for a new children’s home would be ‘the right thing to do morally and financially’.

The location for the residential home hasn’t been chosen yet, but the council confirmed there will be ‘extensive consultation’ with the local community.

Coun Margaret Bruff, cabinet spokesperson for children’s services, added: “This is driven by what’s best for our children - keeping them in Barnsley so they are close to their families and friends, local services and the places they know.

“As part of the proposals, there will be a health and wellbeing support worker working across both children’s residential homes to ensure the level of care is excellent and that our young people are supported to have the best possible outcomes.

“A council-managed residential home not only ensures children aren’t moved out of the borough, and that they are receiving the very best quality of care, but it also reduces the financial impact of using external providers.

“In the past five years, there has been a year-on-year increase in the number of children in care nationally, which has meant that the number of placements needed is greater than council-managed residential care capacity.

“The average weekly cost of an external placement has also risen year-on-year.

“A property and location for the proposed children’s home have not yet been chosen, so the report set out a broad range of indicative estimates for what the property may cost, including potential refurbishment and costs.

“Once a property is chosen, a further report will be presented to cabinet. We’ll also consult and engage widely with the local community and stakeholders.

“I’m confident that the new home will be well-run and provide excellent care for children, while complementing our existing high performing children’s residential home.”