A former care home in Bushey Heath will not be turned into a campus for separated migrant children. ‘Heath House’, on Elstree Road, had been earmarked as a possible site for the proposed £1.5m campus, providing services and accommodation for up to 60 children, all aged 16-18.
But now it has emerged that the site has been ruled out. And council officers are considering other undisclosed sites across the county.
“We’re committed to providing a safe place to live and opportunities to succeed for the vulnerable children we have a legal duty to support, including separated migrant children,” said executive member for children’s services Cllr Fiona Thomson.
“We will continue to explore potential locations for innovative integrated facilities across Hertfordshire to support all children in our care, as part of our ambitious residential strategy and will always work closely with local communities as we develop our plans.”
Currently separated migrant children are supported in placements across the county that include foster care and ‘semi-independent residential settings’. But cost-cutting plans to develop a new ‘campus’ emerged last month in county council budget documents – amid increasing numbers of separated migrant children being cared for in the county.
As well as accommodation, the proposed ‘campus’ could include classrooms, IT suites, sports facilities and community facilities, ‘with a range of other services on site’. Budget documents say that it would bring ‘all the essential elements of their care together into one place’ – as well as cutting annual costs by £879k.
Heath House – which is owned by the county council – was confirmed as a ‘potential location’ for the campus last month. But following a “scoping exercise” – that included “stakeholder engagement, site assessment and reflections on the size and scale of the proposed facility” – the site has been ruled out.
As well as looking for an alternative site for the campus, council officers will now be looking at alternative uses for the Heath House site.