A £1m home designed to give children and young people in care a “stepping-stone” to living more independently has been opened in Newton Aycliffe.
Durham County Council has built the new home, which it has named Maple House, directly alongside its existing Aycliffe Secure Centre.
The new staff team at Maple House will care for up to four 12 to 18-year-olds once they’re ready to move out of the centre, providing support and guidance to help them into the community.
The home has four en-suite bedrooms, spacious living and dining areas, an entertainment room and enclosed garden, as well as a staff sleep-in room, office and meeting room.
Councillor Ted Henderson, Durham County Council’s cabinet member for children and young people’s services, said: “Maple House will provide children and young people living in the secure unit with a stepping-stone to living safely in the community.
“Without a facility like this it can be a much more difficult transition for them to make, especially if it involves moving to an unfamiliar area and having less contact with their support network. And that transition phase can be a tough one to negotiate.
“Having Maple House means we can help children and young people bridge that gap.
“They will receive social care and health support and can access school, college or apprenticeships, while living in a familiar place, and with support and a guiding hand from our staff who they have come to trust.
“It enables us to offer greater continuity for children and young people who have spent time in secure services while we help them plan their next steps back into a community setting, whether that’s a move to a longer-term home or a return to their family.
“Our staff are highly trained to provide a nurturing, consistent and safe living environment in which our children and young people can feel loved, safe, secure, listened to and valued.
“Having that close contact with them also means we can help them to make positive choices that keep them safe and well as they transition to more independent lives.”
Aycliffe Secure Centre, which is rated “good” by Ofsted, provides accommodation for up to 34 young people, many of whom have complex needs and require intensive support.
Durham County Council secured around £900,000 from the Department for Education towards the cost of the Maple House project.
• Pictured above: Cabinet member Cllr Ted Henderson opens Maple House with Chair of Durham County Council’s Corporate Parenting Panel Cllr Mamie Simmons.