Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council

Big plans, bright future

Parish Council Liaison Forum Minutes

Tuesday, 10th December, 2013
Jim Cooke Conference Suite, Stockton Central Library, Stockton on Tees TS18 1TU
Please note: all Minutes are subject to approval at the next Meeting

Attendance Details

Cllr David Coleman (Chairman), Cllr Robert Cook, Cllr Ray McCall (Billingham T.C.); Cllr Mrs Rigg (Egglescliffe & Eaglescliffe PC); Ms M.Johnson (Grindon P.C.); J.Wills (Stillington P.C.).
J.Humphreys, S.McLurg (CESC); N.Hart (LD); G.Cummings (R).
In Attendance:
Cllr Harrington (Cabinet Member for Corporate Management & Finance); Cllr Mrs McCoy (Cabinet Member for Children & Young People); Z.McIlhargey - Deputy Managing Director, Spark of Genius.
Apologies for absence:
Cllr Lewis.
Item Description Decision
RESOLVED that the proposed 52 Week Residential School Model for the Borough be noted.


There were no Declarations of Interest made.
The Corporate Director of Children, Education & Social Care summarised the Council's partnership approach with Spark of Genius North East to allow children who were looked after and were currently placed outside of the local authority area to live and be educated within the Borough. It was noted that as part of its Corporate Parenting responsibilities, the Council had a duty to secure, so far as reasonably practicable, sufficient accommodation within the Borough so that the needs of children in its care could be met locally wherever possible.

Cabinet had taken the decision to form such a partnership at a time when the Council had 37 children placed in residential social care outside of the Borough at a cost of around 4.6M. These costs had increased significantly from 2009/10 (1.8M).

The business case was based on accommodating 20 children currently in out of Borough placements which would require the purchase of up to four properties for conversion into children's homes-each accommodating up to 5 children from the ages of 8-16-and the conversion of the former King Edwin School in Norton into a specialist educational facility. The school would admit looked after and non-looked after children with special educational needs. Renovation of this facility had been completed and Ofsted had given approval for the school to open.

The first of the required properties had been secured in Thorpe Thewles, with subsequent planning approval obtained for its change of use and Ofsted approval for it to open as a home was awaited. The process had however led to significant opposition from local residents and similar opposition had led to the acquisition of a further property in Wolviston being unsuccessful. This had prompted the Council to review its approach, the details of which were submitted and included a two week period of informal public consultation as and when a property had been purchased by the Council. This would include personal visits by senior Spark of Genius representatives to residents living in the immediate vicinity to discuss any concerns on a one to one basis if necessary, and hosting of 'drop-in' sessions with the wider community. Work to identify the remaining suitable properties required was continuing.

It was noted that in neighbouring local authorities, independent providers were purchasing and establishing Residential Childrens Homes without any joint working arrangements with the local authority.

The Forum was advised of the desire to create a family atmosphere within each home, with a mix of ages and gender within the age range. The track record of Spark of Genius in this field was noted, with examples provided of the benefits children had experienced once they had returned to the care of their own local authority. The cost of the project (estimated at 2M) was expected to be paid back within 5 years with annual savings estimated at 400k per year.

Members present endorsed the general principle proposed in seeking to allow looked after children within the Borough to live and be educated within the Borough. It was noted that Parish/Town Councils could do much to assist public assurance regards these proposals and their involvement in the proposed consultations was welcomed.

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