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Calls for change to rule on care homes

By Leek Post and Times  |  Posted: February 07, 2014

By Leslie Jackson

Calls for change to rule on care homes
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A COUNCIL is to challenge a rule that states private houses can be turned into children's care homes if not occupied by more than six people.

A notice of motion is to be presented at the next full meeting of Staffordshire Moorlands District Council for the regulations to be changed after it emerged that there are 19 homes in the district run by private businesses.

The properties consist of farmhouses or former private dwellings, situated across the area, which presently do not require planning permission and neighbours are not informed of their use.

A meeting of the district council's health and community overview and scrutiny panel was attended by Scott Crawford, county manager for regulated services and corporate parenting.

Mr Crawford said: "The children placed in these homes tend to be difficult and have challenging behaviour.

"Many have a history of going missing and some have been victims of abuse and neglect, which has led them to criminal activities. There are 19 homes in the Staffordshire Moorlands run by the independent sector.

"They are registered with Ofsted and have inspections twice a year."

The council's planning applications manager, Mike Green, told the committee that private houses can be used as care homes.

He said: "You are allowed to go from one activity to another without planning permission if you do not have above six people."

A statement read out of behalf of Councillor Peter Elkin, who could not attend the meeting, said: "It does not make sense that children's care homes do not have to have planning permission

"These homes are in residential areas and neighbours do not know. There have been problems in some areas.

"This is a lucrative business with companies being paid up to £4,000 a week per child. It is profit before children.

"I propose we write to MPs in an effort to make sure that planning permission has to be applied for to change the use of a private dwelling into a care home."

Councillor Ron Locker said the district council should take the lead to make sure that care homes did have to apply for planning permission.

He said: "This is a big business, as £4,000 is a lot of money.

"Children have to be safe, but people living in the areas where the homes are should have the chance to make their views heard.

"We need to protect our own people and have got to think of residents living in the areas where the homes are situated.

"There have been incidents in some areas which have cost a lot of money and upset.

"Planning permission is the way forward and we have to try and change this fact."

Councillor Linda Malyon said there was one care home in her ward, and that it held regular meeting with residents and police.

She said: "I believe these homes are in the wrong locations. They are so alien and people hate them being there. Also many neighbours complain.

"These are no longer homes. They have fire extinguishers in every room. There are several fire doors and the rooms are locked.

"They are taking family houses into something else and should have planning permission for a change of use.

"This is big business and the money is an incentive. It is having a detrimental effect and safety to neighbours in rural locations."

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