Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Police Called 31 Times to New Children's Home

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Police Called 31 Times to New Children's Home

Article excerpt

Byline: Mike Blackburn Stockton Chief Reporter

POLICE have been called out 31 times to a controversial children's home in a Stockton suburb in the first three months since it opened.

The first two weeks alone saw 10 calls to police related to the detached home on Darlington Road, Hartburn.

And three times the police helicopter was deployed to help look for missing children.

Along with seven "missing from home" reports in that initial opening period, police also responded to issues relating to concern for safety, criminal damage and assault.

A criminal charge has been brought in connection with one of the incidents.

Only three children with complex needs, all girls, are currently looked after at the home, run by private Scottish firm Spark of Genius with Stockton Council.

Already on its second manager since opening, the children's home has also been criticised in its first Ofsted report following an inspection in June.

Inspectors said it "requires improvement" in all areas saying: "The children's home is not yet delivering good help and care for children and young people."

"However, there are no serious or widespread failures that result in their welfare not being safeguarded or promoted."

Hartburn is one of three new homes for children with complex needs in Stockton.

Fairview, a detached bungalow in Thorpe Thewles, is also up and running and a third property in Stillington is due to open in the autumn. The aim is to bring back the authority's looked-after children into the borough.

Stockton Council has spent PS3.5m a year for these children to be looked after outside the area, and through the new PS2.75m initiative hopes to save about PS600,000 a year.

Spark of Genius is also involved in running the King Edwin School for 20 children with special educational needs in Stockton.

A Freedom of Information request to Cleveland Police by Hartburn Residents Group revealed that between March 9, when the home opened, and June 20, police were contacted 39 times in relation to the Hartburn home.

Officers attended the property on 31 occasions for various reasons, including anti-social behaviour, missing from home, concern for safety and criminal damage. …

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