'Extreme foster placement pressures' needs urgent national intervention, says safeguarding director 

Torbay Council has the second-highest number of children in care in the UK

An Essex County Council committee heard how there is extreme pressure on placements for vulnerable young people, with some being sent as far as Scotland due to limited facilities locally - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

A lack of facilities and difficulties finding foster homes has led to “extreme placement pressures” for vulnerable young children in Essex, a committee was told. 

Essex County Council’s people and families policy and scrutiny committee heard how some were sent to units as far away as Scotland, due to the limited availability of options in the area. 

Paul Secker, director for safeguarding at the council, told the committee on April 14 that there were also difficulties in finding foster placements for older children. 

Leverton Hall in Brentwood had, until 2014, provided care, education and therapy for 16 young people. 

While refusing to criticise the closure of the site for more housing, Mr Secker said it "has never been as difficult as this".

“What we are ending up with is young people with mental health issues and challenging behaviours ending up on paediatric wards sometimes for quite a few days or weeks,” he added. 

Mr Secker added a significant problem is the lack of national oversight as to how many secure beds the county needs. 

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He said: “I don’t think the decision to close Leverton was not the right decision, but what it did was take 15 to 20 beds out of the system. 

“And lots of other authorities have done something similar. 

“So everyone has been able to do that but what we have not had is overview."