Consultation: review of the Old Vicarage Children’s Home

We’re reviewing the future of the Old Vicarage Children’s Home run by Medway Council.

No decision has been reached on the future of the service.

The consultation will take place from 19 November 2019 to 18 December 2019. The results will inform recommendations made to Medway Council’s Cabinet in January 2020.

Please read this summary before you complete the survey.

Why we’re consulting

We’ll consult with clients who use the Old Vicarage Children’s Home, staff working at the service, partners and voluntary organisations. This will help us to understand how the current service provision is working and how the proposal to close it will affect people.

Background

Medway Council’s Children’s Social Care service needs to significantly improve the outcomes for its vulnerable children and young people. We need to ensure that the services we provide offer the best value for money while meeting people’s needs.

A recent Ofsted inspection of Medway’s Children’s Social Care found that too many vulnerable children and young people in need of statutory help and protection wait too long for intervention. It has been suggested that the resources currently committed to the Old Vicarage could be applied to a different service type. This could be one which would offer positive outcomes for more children and young people in Medway, more promptly.

Provision in Medway

There is a lack of suitable provision within Medway, meaning that there is little choice but to place children outside of Medway (known as ‘out of area’). An in-depth analysis of the needs of children and young people against current service types would identify how we can reach a greater number of children in need than is possible now.

The current proposal is not only to consult on closing the provision in its present form. It is also to commission an expert analysis on the types of provision that could be offered if the existing model of service provided at the Old Vicarage were to be closed.

Timely review

The current residents of the Old Vicarage are approaching the age of 18. They all have ongoing provision plans as they transition into Adult Social Care. Now is the best time for us to review the purpose of the Old Vicarage. This is because it is the least disruptive time, as the current residents are already in transition to adulthood.

About the Old Vicarage Children’s Home

Number of clients: 5
Monthly cost: £59,000

The Old Vicarage is an established residential unit for children and young people. It is located in the rural village of Upnor, Medway. It provides a medium to long-term residential service for up to 8 young people aged 12 to 18. The service is only for Medway children with emotional and behavioural difficulties.

The options

One of the options is to keep running the service as we do now.  While this is not ruled out, the current Statement of Purpose means that it is unlikely that we will be able to fully use the provision in the existing format. This means that keeping things the same is less likely to be a realistic option.

The options we're considering for the service are:

  • Continue to provide the current service recognising the cost for each client is disproportionate to those receiving similar services.
  • Close the service and investigate what service type would better serve the needs of Medway’s children and young people - ensuring that current residents have a clear plan for the future.

Alternative accommodation for young people currently living at the Old Vicarage

All the young people currently living in residence are already or approaching the age of 18 and have an ongoing transition plan to support them into Adult Social Care and alternative accommodation arrangements. 

Why we have not said what a new service will look like and how much that would cost

We believe that using the facility for a different service type could offer better value for money, but more importantly, improved outcomes for those children and young people, whom we currently cannot place within Medway.  

It currently costs £59,000 per month to run the Old Vicarage. The proposal is not only to consult on closing the home with its current service provision, but to review the type of service that could be offered instead.  

A number of different proposals have been suggested. We need sufficient time to examine these potential options in order to select the one which will allow us to address the needs of the greatest number of Medway children and young people.  

It would not be appropriate to decide on any single option until we are sure that it is the most suitable solution. 

Why the spaces available at the Old Vicarage are not all being used now

The Old Vicarage can take up to eight children or young people. The service provided at the Old Vicarage is for children and young people with very specific needs, which means that it is not possible to offer a place to someone who has different support needs.  

The profile of the children and young people who need help, and the type of help that they need, is changing, and fewer and fewer young people meet the requirements as they are currently specified. This means that with the current service offer we are not able to accept a number of children and young people who may want to live at the home.

Why we cannot alter the Old Vicarage operating requirements to meet the needs of other children 

The Old Vicarage is an Ofsted registered facility. Part of the requirement of the running of the Old Vicarage is that ‘If the current cohort of young people changes, so too must the home’s function.’  

Changing the function, or type of service provided by an Ofsted registered facility requires a formal application to Ofsted, which will consider the application. 

As part of this consultation process, the proposal is also to look at what kind of service Medway Council needs to offer its children and young people. Until we know what that looks like, we cannot make the formal application to Ofsted to change the statement of the service to be provided.   

Alternative services or resources if the Old Vicarage is closed

This has not been decided yet. We believe that using the facility for a different service type could help ensure we are better able to help children to thrive, be healthy and learn well, and importantly, improve outcomes for those children and young people, whom we currently cannot place.  

A number of different proposals have been suggested. We need sufficient time to examine these potential options in order to select the one which will allow us to address the needs of the greatest number of Medway children and young people.  

It would not be appropriate to decide on any single option until we are sure that it is the most suitable solution.  

Arrangements for children who cannot manage or be supported within the Medway offer of fostering or adoption arrangement 

Through our Early Help service, Medway Council aims to provide support as soon as it is needed to help families thrive and resolve any challenges they may be facing before the challenges become too difficult to manage. Where further help is needed, we provide individualised care to meet the needs of the children.  

We look at the needs of the child or young person and place them in an appropriate setting. In addition to considering fostering and adoption, we also look at extended family members, special guardians, supported living or Shared Lives.  

How to take part

To take part in the consultation you can fill in the online survey, or you can download, complete and post a printable survey.

Complete the online survey

Download a printable survey

Post the printable survey to: Jackie Brown, Level 2, Medway Council, Gun Wharf, Dock Road, Chatham ME4 4TR.

The consultation closes at 4pm on 18 December 2019.

What happens next

We’ll analyse what people tell us and present this to the Council's Children and Young People Overview and Scrutiny Committee, and the Cabinet in January. They will consider the recommended proposal for the Old Vicarage Children’s Home.

We’ll share the results of the consultation, Cabinet’s decision and what happens next with clients and staff.

Help and questions

If you have any questions about this consultation, are concerned about the changes, need help to take part, or you need a copy of the information in a different format, such as large print, or another language, contact csimprovements@medway.gov.uk.