Children’s care home will be built despite safeguarding concerns

St Albans Road East

St Albans Road East in Hatfield. - Credit: Google Maps

A care home for vulnerable children will be built in Hatfield despite concerns over safeguarding.

The proposals will see the house in St Albans Road East extended to care for three children, after members said there was “no evidence” for safeguarding concerns.

In October 2021, Hertfordshire County Council applied to convert the property, which aims to provide children aged between seven and 18 with an environment as close to the traditional family home as possible.

The proposals were referred to March 31’s Development Control Committee after Hatfield Town Council lodged a major objection to the plans, citing parking and safeguarding concerns.

The home will have two staff present at all times, increasing to a maximum of three if needed. There will be on change shift a day for staff, where there will be a maximum of six staff on site for one hour.

The county council said its location near to Hatfield town centre means there would be sufficient car parking and there are no plans to affect highway access so there would be no impact on the road.

It also added, the home, which was previously used as an adult care home under supported living arrangements, will be run by the county council and regulated by Ofsted so dismissed any safeguarding concerns.

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Veronica Bennett, from the county council’s children’s services, said providing care in local settings can make the transition easier for children, while the property has a secluded garden which allows the children to use the outdoor space.

She said it was a “wonderful opportunity to create a well-purposed children’s home to support the promotion of best outcomes for children”.

County councillors were unanimous in their support for the home, and criticised the objection for lacking detail on the claims and concerns raised.

Local member Councillor Peter Hebden (Conservative, Hatfield East) said the plans should be voted through, adding: “I’ve seen no evidence submitted by Hatfield Town Council of safeguarding issues.”

Cllr Hebden also disputed it was near a dangerous road and it is within walking distance of a good school and near to a park in a safe neighbourhood, while meeting demand for support for children in care.

He added: “Would Hatfield Town Council have concerns if a traditional family of five moved into this house? No, so why are there issues bringing in children who need looking after – the most vulnerable in our society – and this is a good place for them to thrive.

“On behalf of Hatfield, I apologise for your time being wasted by Hatfield Town Council – officers and members – and I do think this should be fed back to Hatfield Town Council, if they’re going to submit a major objection to a planning application they should be here to speak up or provide some evidence to support their objection.”

Councillors on the committee echoed the criticism of the “frivolous” objection, with Councillor Tina Bhartwas (Labour, Letchworth North) adding it highlights work needs to be done to “address stigma around complex or multiple needs”.

Members of the committee unanimously backed the proposals to convert the property, and the service will be allowed to operate upon Ofsted approval.