TAMESIDE’S provision for looked after children will be boosted by a new assessment centre which has everything under one roof.
But Lawrence House in Denton is definitely not one thing – it is certainly not a children’s home.
The Correspondent was allowed to see the work done at the property on St Lawrence Road after a £148,000 scheme to transform it into a place where those most in need can be assessed.
Rather than different things being done in different places, a multi-agency approach can now be taken in the same building.
Children going through breakdowns in their family or with foster are placements are most likely to be referred to the new centre.
And service manager Karen Brougham, believes having it can make a huge difference – even the way it is decorated can help.
She said: “It’s an assessment provision for children that are either on the edge of care or are in care and there’s a placement breakdown or there’s a breakdown with the family.
“We’ll bring them into here and do a maximum 12-week assessment with them so that we can understand the needs and behaviours and we can work with other professionals.
“It’ll be young people who come in through us or whose parents are saying they can no longer cope, there are real issues.
“Whether that’s because of their behaviours, whether they’re involved in child sexual exploitation or some county lines things.
“We can bring them here so we give them a bit of a break but while also working systemically with the families. That’s crucial.
“We’ll have a hub based here too with a clinical psychologist, speech and language professionals and hopefully the police and other health professionals plus a therapeutic social worker.
“We could do work with the young people and address issues and one day maybe look at reunification with their home or look at an external or internal residential provision or foster placement.
“That means there’s less chance of a placement breakdown, giving the young person a better outcome and future life chances.
“We could find out why breakdowns happen and with that intensive assessment, rather than it being done by a social worker and waiting around, we can just have it all in this hub and concentrate on that young person.”
Tony Decrop, assistant director of children’s social care, added: “What happens at the moment is we’re having to place children outside the area, which makes it hard to get all those services and support working systemically.
“With this being local, we’ve a much better chance of maintaining schools, keeping relationships with family, extended family or carers and doing it over an agreed timescale.
“We’re seeing an increase in children’s social care, nationally it’s gone up. We need to grow our foster carers and we’ve just launched a whole new offer on that.”
While Lawrence House is not a children’s home, Tameside Council moved to ease any concerns among the community living around it by allowing them in to look.
Cllr Bill Fairfoull said: “Community is key because if this is to work, the community’s got to be bought into the project.
“We want the community to be involved in it and with the young people. There’s nothing to hide. This is going to be the best thing for that young person, which has to be first and foremost in our thoughts.
“We need the community to come with us. If it’s against us, it simply won’t work.”
Local ward councillor Allison Gwynne added: “There’s a lot of goodwill towards the people here. It’s real life and for children living in children’s homes, that isn’t real life, which is why the optimum is living in things like foster placements.
“That is real life and attitudes and feelings towards those around you help you live a better life.”
Look around Lawrence House and assessment centre is not the first thing that comes to mind.
But as Karen revealed, that was the idea as it can bring more out of the children, adding: “We didn’t want it to look clinical. This is their home they’ll be coming in for up to 12 weeks.
“We’ve also looked at how we can enhance things so they feel warm and the young people can invest in that and learn how to act around a home and look after things.
“If they’ve had a lot of deprivation or neglect, they wouldn’t necessarily have had that environment which they can invest in and be respectful of. Creating that environment is crucial.”