Questions raised over Buckingham children’s home plans

editorial image

Concerned residents of Westfields have met with Buckinghamshire County Council to debate plans that would see two properties on the estate converted into a children’s home.

At a Buckingham Library meeting on November 14, neighbours raised their concerns, over what impact the home for five young people will have, with the council’s executive director for Children’s Services Tolis Vouyioukas, and county councillor for Buckingham West Charlie Clare.

Despite generally supporting the principle of introducing new children’s homes to Bucks, to help home the 475 county children in need of council support, residents of Westfields thought that their estate was not the best location.

Residents voiced their worries about the lack of things for young people to do in Buckingham, the suitability of the property, and the responsibility of the council to integrate the home’s occupants within the community.

They also expressed a belief that introducing a home to a newly-built development would be easier for all involved.

Mr Vouyioukas said: “When kids go into care it’s always the last resort, we do everything we can before we make that decision to divert them from the care system. Our intention at the moment is to reduce the number of children who are placed out of county.

“For local authorities, it’s often difficult to find the right site in a timely manner. My experience tells me coming up with the four potential sites was a difficult task on its own, let alone negotiating with developers and builders etc.”

Cllr Clare said: “The planning process is where these official objections will be heard. I haven’t been presented with an objection that has made me have to spin on a sixpence and oppose this, but it’s not a foregone conclusion.”

One resident, Mrs Angela Bartlett, knocked on the doors of her neighbours to ask for their opinions. She said: “It was a very interesting exercise as, although most people have the same concerns, I also heard some concerns that I hadn’t considered personally.”

It was suggested that a couple of Westfield neighbours visit an existing children’s home in Aylesbury to learn more about what they do, and for the incoming manager of the proposed home to also meet with residents.