Work is underway to create a new unit at a secure children’s home in Newton Aycliffe to help support young residents when they leave the centre.
Following an announcement from the government that it is investing an initial £12m to create new places in secure children’s homes, construction has started at Aycliffe Secure Children’s Home, to create a new ‘step-down’ place.
The area will support children to move out of secure accommodation safely and back into the community when they are ready to do so. It will also create more than 20 new skilled jobs.
Aycliffe provides high-quality, specialist accommodation for young people between the ages of 10 and 18, many of whom have complex problems and need intensive support to help them turn their lives around.
Accommodation is available for up to 38 young people, who have either been sentenced or remanded by the Youth Custody Service or are accommodated for their own or other safety under Section 25 of the Children’s Act 1989 and are commissioned by local authorities.
There is a requirement for a new transition unit at Aycliffe to address the difficulties that young people often face when leaving a secure environment to go out into the general community.
This can be particularly difficult if children leave to reside in an unfamiliar area that is in a different location to their previous home environment.
The new unit will allow access to school, college or apprenticeships whilst enabling children to live in a safe environment with access to support and staff whom they have come to trust.
It will provide four en suite bedrooms for young people – all at ground floor overlooking the centre’s courtyard – as well as two secure staff sleep-in rooms and a staff office and meeting room.
Work on the unit is expected to be completed by September 2022, with children who currently live at the home remaining there throughout the build process.
The creation of the new transition unit comes after Aycliffe Secure Children’s Home retained its position as an ‘Outstanding’ centre following an inspection by Ofsted in November 2021. The home has been rated as Outstanding since 2019.
During the latest visit, inspectors found that “children continue to enjoy warm and supportive relationships with staff.
These relationships help them to develop trust in the people who care for them. Consequently, the children are able to reflect on their life experiences and establish positive strategies to deal with challenges. This helps children to move forward with hope and confidence.”
The report added: “Partnership working between managers, staff and other professionals who support the children is extremely effective. This helps staff to collaborate closely and to implement care plans which promote and protect each child’s welfare.
“It is very clear that members of staff know the children well and know how each child prefers to be supported and nurtured. As a result, children continue to make good progress because they live in this home.”