Fylde Council is exploring options to bring children’s homes under tighter controls. The report of the in-depth Scrutiny Review of the Use of Residential Premises as Children’s Homes is now available, and Fylde Council’s Executive Committee have resolved to agree to the recommendations it puts forward.

As planning permission is not always required to change the use of a residential dwelling to a children’s care home, concern has previously been expressed that residential children’s homes are being established in an uncontrolled and uncoordinated manner across the borough.

Between September 2023 and January 2024, a Task and Finish Group appointed by the Internal Scrutiny Committee met on six occasions and spoke with numerous stakeholders and external organisations involved with children’s services either directly or indirectly. The goal was to gain an understanding of the planning permission at Fylde as it related to children’s care homes and how such homes are regulated by the various bodies, as well as to assess the impact these arrangements had on communities, service providers, key organisations, and looked after children.

In addition to evidence presented by partners including Lancashire County Council Children’s Services, Ofsted, Lancashire Constabulary and the regional Named Nurse for Children in Care, the Task and Finish Group also received evidence from several children’s care home providers and submissions from residents of Fylde.

This rich array of evidence allowed Members to identify numerous issues of concern, from which they drew four recommendations for the consideration of the Executive Committee:

  1. To consider the drafting of an advice note to inform and assist applicants, neighbours and other interested parties in the development of, or change of use of an existing building or premises to, a children’s home through the seeking of planning permission or lawful development certificate.
  2. To investigate and consider ways in which Fylde Council can assist and promote the work of Lancashire County Council Children’s Services locally in Fylde.
  3. To explore an approach in planning policy in line with neighbouring authorities; and
  4. To further research the prevalence of anti-social behaviour in relation to the increase of children’s homes in Fylde.

The purpose of such an advice note would be to provide clarity and guidance, enabling the submission of better-quality applications that the council can support.

Cllr Chris Dixon, Lead Member for Social Wellbeing, said: “We know there are children who need to be in care, and we are fully committed to helping those children and families in need. However, this review has highlighted exactly what we suspected and feared; we are catering for four times as many children in care as we need in Lancashire. This means children are being sent miles and miles away from their homes to be cared for here in Fylde which can exacerbate the issues they face and put pressure on local services with costs falling on us here in Fylde. Some care home providers are taking on lucrative contracts for authorities hundreds of miles away, and not for local families who need help.

“There are clearly gaps in the legislation governing children’s care homes and they need to be addressed to allow Fylde residents to have a real voice on the number and location of children’s homes in the borough.

“By obtaining a better understanding of the interface between the various bodies involved, the Council can establish how to improve the situation and make sure children being looked after in Lancashire are in the best possible care, while minimising any negative impact for partner organisations and communities within Fylde.”

In addition to the recommendations presented to the Executive Committee of Fylde Council, the review also makes several recommendations for the consideration of His Majesty’s Government.

The full Internal Affairs Scrutiny Committee report, entitled ‘A Review into the Use of Residential Properties as Children’s Care Homes’, can be read on the Fylde Council website here: Click to view the full report.


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