Wednesday, 25 November 2020

Villagers used ‘intimidation’ to oppose children’s home

A CHILDREN’S home operator has hit back at residents who criticised its plans to

A CHILDREN’S home operator has hit back at residents who criticised its plans to open a home in Sonning Common.

Calcot Services for Children, of Theale, is currently renovating a former care home in Baskerville Road and plans to open it as a home for up to seven “traumatised and vulnerable” childen aged five to 18. It already runs five children’s homes in Berkshire.

But some residents have claimed the village is not suitable for such a facility.

The company refused to send a representative to a meeting of Sonning Common Parish Council, blaming “unfortunate discriminative and intimidating behaviour” by a minority of residents.

In a statement to the meeting, it said: “Our children are referred to us for a wide range of reasons but are often in our care due to being or having been at risk from adults around them.

“As explained to some neighbours we have spoken to, our children are often vulnerable and may have experienced abuse, neglect or difficulties in the home prior to entering the care system.”

The company said its children were “matched” before being placed in one of its homes, adding: “The staff team will keep children engaged in the home and will access local community resources when appropriate.

“We have an extensive history of contributing to community and excellent engagement with neighbours in other areas.

“Therefore it could be seen positively in how we can support and promote local facilities for children.”

The company said it had homes in Hurst and Burghfield and had “successfully integrated children into both communities”.

It also hit back at claims of being “underhand” by only notifying the nearest neighbours to the home of its plans. The company said it had been “open, honest and transparent” with neighbours and it was not required legally to advise the whole commuity when a home was opening as the location was confidential.

The statement said: “It is not necessary nor a requirement to let all neighbours know of a children’s home opening to protect the safety of children. Therefore many neighbours across England may not know they have a children’s home local to them.”

Councillor Douglas Kedge, who chairs the parish council, said the majority of people who spoke at the meeting were in favour of the home.

He said: “There were certainly more in favour of the home being established. It was a perfectly reasonable meeting and nobody lost their temper. Those with concerns who came to the meeting were not those responsible for the abuse.”

Penny Vanheems, of Baskerville Road, who collected about 50 letters in opposition to the home with her neighbour Joyce Wise, attended the meeting. She said: “The parish councillors allowed everyone to have their say, for and against.” Mrs Wise added: “We have done what we set out to do. We have tried and we have given the parish council our letters. We will just have to see what happens.”

A meeting with residents that was due to take place at the company’s offices on Monday last week was cancelled after the company said its staff had received abuse.

Residents had called for the meeting to be held in Sonning Common but the company said it had to be held in private.

The company said: “The home is currently undergoing major renovations so it was not possible to invite neighbours in.

“Equally, due to the confidentiality restrictions of the home in upholding each child’s right to privacy, it was not appropriate to hold a meeting in a public venue.

“Theale was offered as a meeting venue as this is where our head office is and where we could facilitate a meeting in private.

“During discussions with some neighbours we had offered to meet with them within the village and had requested that they share any local places they felt may be appropriate to meet.”

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