Work begins on centre to help protect vulnerable children

The centre, off Chinnor Road, will enable more of the county’s vulnerable young people to stay closer to home and reduce the need to send children to costly out-of-county settings where the council also has less control over the quality of placements.

It will provide short-term accommodation for up to six children (12 to 17-year-olds) on the ‘edge’ of the care system, enabling staff to assess whether children can return home or whether an alternative placement – for instance, with a foster carer - is needed. The centre will cost around £2m to build and is expected to become operational next year.

Ground-breaking ceremony

Council staff were joined on Friday (29 May) by a representative from the Children in Care Council (CiCC) to dig the first sod of earth ahead of construction work.

The CiCC is an advisory group which helps to inform the council about the services it provides to ensure the voices of young people are heard. It is made up of children and young people either currently in care or who have been through the care system. The views of the CiCC have helped inform the design process for the new building.

Keeping children safe

The council's Cabinet Member for Children, education and Families Melinda Tilley said: “We all have a responsibility to help keep children safe, especially vulnerable young people who have often experienced traumatic childhoods.

"We want to work with local communities to provide the best possible environment for our young people and this is a really significant moment in securing the future of that work.”

Cabinet Member for Business and Customer Services Nick Carter added: “It’s very pleasing to see work getting started on this excellent new facility. The assessment centre will not only help keep vulnerable children safe, but also reduce the need to send children to out-of-county placements many miles away from friends and family."

Wider context

Work on an additional Assessment Centre in Eynsham and a ‘Move-on’ home in Didcot for older teenagers preparing to leave care – is expected to begin later this year. A further ‘Move-on’ home is also planned in Witney.

Taken as a whole, the four homes will provide 20 new places for vulnerable young people in Oxfordshire, and help the council develop an improved ‘pathway’ for young people from the moment they enter, to the moment they leave the care system.