Skilled live-in carers, using parenting practices recommended by child psychologists, ensure that the children receive the best possible emotional and practical support to rebuild their lives.
The County Council cares for a small number of children who, for varying and complex reasons, are unable to remain at home with their own families, or with a foster carer.
“These children are among the most vulnerable in Hampshire and are a top priority for us,” says Residential Care Service Manager, Susan Lomax. “We know that children are usually happiest, and most likely to succeed, when they are in a stable home environment. We’ve completely redesigned our residential care for children, aiming to give them the closest possible thing to a conventional home.”
Family size groups
“By increasing the number of homes, but making them smaller, we can allow the children to live in family-size groups,” says Susan. “This creates a more personal atmosphere, which we know can be a big influence on a child’s emotional wellbeing.”
The new homes will also have much lower running costs, benefiting from 21st century, energy-efficient building techniques and technologies such as solar power.
Designed by the County Council’s award winning in-house Property Services team, the new homes are built to a low-energy construction standard called ‘Passivhaus’, where the need to heat and cool spaces is dramatically reduced by high levels of insulation.
The homes also use mechanical ventilation that recovers heat, minimising wasted energy. Natural daylight is maximised, so that the use of electric lighting can be significantly lower. Solar thermal panels minimise hot water costs.
The redesign was also an opportunity to choose the best possible locations for vulnerable children to grow up in. All the homes are near to good transport links, within walking distance of schools and also within easy reach of local amenities and leisure activities, enabling young people to develop their independence safely.
Children in care played a crucial role in the design, with their ideas for what a ‘real home’ would have; including having the main entrance at the front instead of the side, and a front garden.
Staff at the homes take a ‘pillars of parenting’ approach, supported by child psychologists, that has been shown to enable professional carers to successfully help vulnerable children rebuild their lives. It involves emotional support to help the child adapt to their new situation, and encouragement of a child’s personal strengths to build their confidence, combined with proven authoritative parenting techniques and a stable home environment.
'It doesn’t feel like I’m in care’
Ensuring that young people can feel at home has involved careful planning of the interior spaces. For young people, sharing a bathroom with others who are not their family can be a big source of conflict, so there are small en-suite shower rooms.
Young people have settled in well. A manager of one of the homes has recently said:
“It has made a real difference to how our young people feel about where they live. All our young people have had friends round to visit and have proudly shown off their bedrooms, snug (quiet room) and living rooms. They are especially thrilled to have their own en-suite showers.
“One of the young people said to me, ‘it doesn’t feel like I’m in care’. To me, that’s the highest praise possible.”