Saturday, 26 May 2007

£2.2m upgrade for care home




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A CONTROVERSIAL care home run by Sunderland Council could be in line for a £2.2million revamp.
Social Services bosses want to redevelop the Wellesley Community Home in Blyth, Northumberland, which houses some of the toughest young offenders from Wearside.Currently it accommodates up to 30 children and takes up 22 acres of land. Under plans outlined by Social Services director John Marsden a large part of the Wellesley site will be demolished, including 16 staff houses, offices, a chapel and a bungalow.In their place will be four new accommodation blocks and new office building, releasing a large area of land which will be available for sale.And the home will then only take up eight acres of land compared to the 22
acres it currently occupies.Mr Marsden says the refit will cost £2.2million and the council has put aside £1.5million already.The rest of the cash will eventually come from the trustees of the home after the sale of the surplus land.But for the time being, councillors are being asked to approve the whole amount until the sale goes through.The former Wellesley Nautical School was given a facelift in 1993, when £280,000 was spent to help it house girls as well as boys.But a year later, the home was at the centre of a political storm which led to calls for a public inquiry by city Tories.A group of youngsters housed at the centre ran amok in Rothbury, Northumberland, and stole a car.The Tories wanted an urgent review of security and called for resignations over the matter.Later that year, a group of youngsters, believed to be high on solvents, ran amok at the centre
The Childrens Centre at Durham
Social Services director John Marsden said he will not be suggesting closure until next summer.Speaking at a meeting last night of the Social Services committee, Mr Marsden said: "I have always said that we wouldnt close the centre until we had proper alternatives for the children and I wont be suggesting closure until next August."He added: "We have enough money out of the budgets to run the centre for the rest of this year and part or all of next year. We will review the situation again at the end of this year."80,000 people had signed a petition started by the Echo asking for the centre not to be closed.

CARE SERVICES DENY FOSTERING C
A YOUTH leader, sacked from hi
Dismissed Herrington Burn YMCA leader Chris Jones claims children who have lived with him at his home over the past 16 years were sent to him by social services in Sunderland, Durham and Darlington.But all three councils say they have never placed children with the Sunderland magistrate. Children have been placed with the YMCA – but none of those should have been living one-to-one with Mr Jones in his home.Darlington Council is now investigating Mr Joness claims that at least one youngster from its social services system had lived with him for five months.At Sunderland, director of social services John Marsden said: "We have never placed a child with him personally. "We have used the YMCA for day activities and occasionally accommodation –usually 16-plus-year-olds. "There may have been the occasional 15-year-old, when there has been a crisis with their parents, for the short-term."If he has taken children, not into the YMCA, but into his own home without our knowledge that is grossly inappropriate."One child who has lived with Mr Jones had been there under a private arrangement with his parents. Mr Marsden said his officers had been informed of this situation as required by law because the boy was under 16. But had not introduced the child to Mr Jones, as he claims and he did not know of any
other such arrangements.Mr Marsden said: "The parents made the placement. We had no reason to intervene."Mr Jones continues to claim the three councils have officially placed youngsters with him and youth and community leader at the YMCA, Paul Ramsay, has backed Mr Joness claims saying he has sat in on meetings when social workers have put children in Mr Joness care.At Durham County Council a spokesman said they may have placed youngsters with the YMCA but never Mr Jones individually.He said: "If anybody had been sent to a communal type establishment and we found they had been taken out of there and were spending time with individuals for any length of time then we would be most concerned. "If children subject to care orders to Durham CC have been staying with him at his house and he claims this and he is not a registered foster carer that is something we will be looking into."
New post for social services director




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SUNDERLAND social services director John Marsden is leaving after a decade on Wearside.
Mr Marsden is taking up the new post of chief executive at the troubled North Tyneside Council.The 53-year-old takes over the £100,000-a-year post after almost 10 years in charge of Sunderland Council's social services department.Mr Marsden took over from Roy Parker at a time when social services in Sunderland were in crisis.The former director of
community services at the London Borough of Barnet was the fourth director of social services on Wearside in two years when he started in August 1992.In his time at Sunderland he has had to handle sensitive children's cases such as that of Laura Kane and Corey Raine and a trial of former workers at Witherwack House, a trial which eventually collapsed.But he was rewarded by Government inspectors last month when his department was one of only eight in the country to get a maximum three stars for its performance.He will take up the challenge of moving to a council which has recently had to make £11million-worth of cuts because of financial problems.Mr Marsden is the latest top director at Sunderland council to leave this year.Four directors have retired and Irene Lucas, former chief of City Contracting Services, has moved to South Tyneside Council as its new chief executive.
WE FAILED COREY - MARSDEN
FAMILY SNAPSHOT: Corey Raine with his mum Sarah Allison who killed him while suffering from post-natal depression. Right, Sunderland's social services director John Marsden.
SOCIAL workers "failed to fully understand" the impact of a disturbed teenage mother's mental state which led to her battering her baby to death.
John Marsden, director of social services at Sunderland City Council, today admitted that staff did not recognise signs that Sarah Allison had deep-rooted problems and may have needed more support.Mr Marsden's comments came after the publication of the Area Child Protection Committee's (ACPC) report into the death of Allison's six-month-old son Corey Raine.Corey suffered extensive injuries and multiple fractures to his head after Allison, 19, banged him against a wall at home in Windsor Crescent, Houghton, on April 12, last year, while suffering from post-natal depression "of a marked degree".She is now serving four years divided between hospital and a young offenders' institute after pleading guilty to infanticide.During her trial at Newcastle Crown Court it emerged that Corey was on the child protection at-risk register.A social worker who visited Corey two days before he died had reported no concerns.The ACPC report stated that quality of assessment in health and social services "sometimes fell below the best standards for assessment work".This meant there was a focus on "practical and material support and responding to crises in the family, rather than on a good understanding of the protection issues in this case".Mr Marsden said Corey was primarily placed on the at-risk register because his father, Philip Raine, 30, was classed as a schedule one offender. Staff had focused on Mr Raine and provided practical support for the family, he added. As a result, they had missed signs from Allison's childhood. She had been involved with care services in Stockton-on-Tees
from a young age, before moving to Wearside. Mr Marsden said: "The full impact of Sarah's disturbed and unhappy childhood and the impact of the depression after the birth were not fully understood." "The real problem was what the staff involved didn't realise was the full impact of her rather sad and difficult background." He added that there had been no justification for taking Corey into care and that no one was to predict that Allison's depression would lead to her son's death. A shake-up of child care within social services has now taken place which will see less experienced or less qualified social workers reporting back to more experienced "supervisors" in a bid to identify problems such as those suffered by Allison. The report added that "individual managers should be held to account for poor practice in this case and the necessary action is presently on-going to determine this
Wellesley's children are coming home




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A TROUBLED children's home will finally close next month in a shake-up that will bring vulnerable youngsters back to Wearside.
Sunderland Council-run Wellesley Community Home, in Blyth, will close and the final 10 youngsters move out, ending a link dating back almost 140 years.The 27-bed care home, the centre of a long-running closure campaign by residents, has been gradually wound down by council chiefs over the last year.Its closure – a month early – will see cash spent on more units in Sunderland, with two to open in Hendon and Witherwack.Barbara Williams, Sunderland Council's new head of safeguarding, said the closure was part of a policy to cut the number of youngsters in the city's eight children's homes, while giving families, better support "to stay together"."We don't need Wellesley any more," she said. "In the past it has done an excellent job, but things have moved on and the expectations we have for looked after children has changed."It's no longer good enough to send them 25 miles away from the city where they live; also, why should they like it? Times have changed and we have to change with them."Until the middle of last year, there were 28 boys, aged between 12 and 18 there, but this dwindled after the closure of two of the four houses. At one point Wellesley took in "senior delinquent boys" from Sunderland, and other areas, and has been dogged for years by links to crime sprees in and around Blyth.Mrs Williams insisted there would be "no substantial saving", with the £1.8million saving ploughed into improving services in the city.More foster carers have been recruited, while the council are revamping flats for teenagers after they leave care, to help them become more independent.One is to open in Hendon, with eight flats offering round-the-clock care for 17 and 18-year-olds. Another is planning to reopen in Witherwack for youngsters with moderate learning difficulties.Mrs Williams said: "We are confident because we have provided the right level of support and the right staff to give young people a good level of support. They are not going to
be left on their own to fend for themselves."There are now eight small children's homes in Sunderland, housing youngsters over 11.Mrs Williams said: "You could walk past them and not know they were children's homes. We want our children to have an opportunity that isn't any different from other children."Retired railway worker George Tuff, who lives on the Solingen estate next to Wellesley, believes many will be glad to see it go.Mr Tuff, 75, who chairs the Solingen Residents' Association, said: "We're pleased it's going, we can now breathe a sigh of relief. We've had endless complaints and hopefully they will now come to an end. Anyone who lives near the home has had trouble from it. We just hope there isn't a final spate of crimes before it shuts."The centre was founded in 1868 as the Wellesley Nautical School and the site is owned by trustees, who will now decided its future
Home troubles mount
TROUBLED teenagers have gone missing from a controversial children's home more than 220 times in less than a year, new figures have revealed.
Wellesley Community Home, run by Sunderland Council, takes in children from Wearside and other parts of the North East, some of whom are awaiting trial for criminal offences. The figure obtained by the Echo includes the number of arrests made by police both in and outside the home, due to close in 2007. Using the powers of the Freedom of Information Act, the Echo has obtained details of children who have gone on the run from Wellesley over the last 11 months, as well as arrest figures linked to the home. Youngsters are still being sent to Wellesley from Sunderland as it winds down over the next two years. As part of a multi-million pound plan, the children will be relocated across Sunderland to foster homes or looked-after care, while the 27-bed care home is closed down. Staff from Wellesley will be based on Wearside as part of a new support team. It has emerged that between October last year and September, police were alerted 223 times about children going missing from Wellesley. In January, nine youngsters – half of its residents – walked out 45 times, while in July a dozen children logged 44 unauthorised absences. Last month, just one teen went missing. Police, meanwhile, have been called into the home eighteen times to arrest residents for alleged offences ranging from assault to criminal damage. Five more were arrested outside the home between October last year and September. Retired railway worker George Tuff, who lives on the Solingen estate next to the home, said the figures for incidents outside Wellesley were the tip of the iceberg. Mr Tuff, who chairs the Solingen Residents’ Association, said: “The problems have gone on for years. Sunderland Council either doesn’t want to know or they are not being informed. The police seemed to be dealing with things and the
message isn’t getting back to Sunderland Council, but the problem hasn’t got any better.” Wellesley was founded in 1868 as a boys’ school and is owned by a board of trustees. Sunderland Council manages it and takes in children from across the North East. A spokesman for Sunderland City Council said most of its unauthorised absences at Wellesley were “short term and the young person does not go far”. “The longer term are generally when the young person returns to his home area. In these situations it is almost invariably the case that the young person is staying at home.” He added that the number of youngsters “who offend is a small minority” adding: “It is, however, worth noting that the majority of offending behaviour is within the home, directed at property, other young people or staff. Relatively little crime is perpetrated within the community either in Blyth or Sunderland.”