AN INNOVATIVE scheme will see Somerset County Council buy 10 new small homes to help improve the chances of Somerset’s highest needs children.

The plan, given the green light at the council's Cabinet meeting on Monday (June 21), will link the homes to foster carers and therapeutic education. It is hoped this will contribute to providing a seamless service that will help children and young people to grow and flourish.

Combining foster care and small homes will offer young people the experience of a stable home environment and the opportunity to live with a family when they are ready. Skilled therapists from different agencies and teachers will work together to provide wraparound support designed to meet their individual needs.

The council say the ten-year programme will deliver a new way of working which will "address the needs of Somerset’s most complex children and young people who are cared for by the council".

Children supported by this new service are more likely to have lots of difficulties. They are more likely to be victims of exploitation and go missing from home. They are less likely to go to school or training and have good future employment prospects. They can end up living a long way from the familiarity of their local school, family, and friends.

The provision of stable and nurturing homes will offer an opportunity to improve how the children and young people are cared for, to support them in becoming successful independent adults.

Councillor Frances Nicholson, cabinet member for children and families at Somerset County Council, said: “We are developing an innovative service with a strategic partner to support our most vulnerable children and young people looked after in Somerset.”

“Our children and young people have shared their thoughts on what makes a good home. It must be safe, clean and warm and the people there must be understanding, honest, kind and helpful.

"It must be in a good location for school or work and freedom and free time. The young people have told us they do not like being away from the areas they know and want to be able to make enduring friendships.

"We are committed to delivering this for them.”

“With the new small homes with specialist staff and links with foster carers, we will be able to provide individual support: the right intervention at the right time that will bring the children and young people stability and improve their future life chances.”

More information about the project can be found on the council's website.

If you are interested in learning more about becoming a Somerset foster carer, please check out the Fostering in Somerset website or contact 0800 587 9900.