Wellesley's children are coming home
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