Last hostel for troubled teenagers in Wandsworth to close

Bridge House in Balham

Bridge House in Balham

First published in News Wandsworth Guardian: Photograph of the Author by , Chief Reporter

The borough’s last remaining hostel for troubled teenagers is to close amid the latest wave of cuts to public services.

Bridge House, in Larch Close, Balham, is the one remaining adolescent resource centre in Wandsworth, with the capacity to temporarily house up to seven young people, with challenging behaviour, from the ages of 11 to 17.

However, the centre is set to close in June due to high costs and variable occupancy levels which will result in the deletion of 19 job posts - 13 of which are currently occupied.

A representative of staff from Bridge House raised a number of concerns with the council arguing it was an effective service catering for the needs of young people.

Staff also argue there has not been enough consideration of alternative ways to make savings or reduce running costs of the unit and the closure of the unit, without addressing the ethnicity of the team, could appear discriminatory and unethical.

A report submitted to Wandsworth Council said many of the youngsters have mental health problems and often presented with self-destructive behaviour, sometimes damaging buildings, assaulting staff and disturbing neighbours.

Wandsworth Guardian:

During the last 15 to 20 years these types of residential units have closed across Wandsworth and the closure of Bridge House is expected to save £299,000 in 2014/15 and £399,000 in 2015/16.

A spokesman for Wandsworth Council said: "We believe that better care can be provided to these young people in a family environment using specially trained foster parents who will be able to provide better focus on their specific individual needs.

"Residential children's homes are increasingly seen as not providing the best standard of care and there is growing evidence that communal living of this type can have a negative impact on young people."

Money is expected to be reinvested in preventative services within the private and voluntary sector.

Three new outreach posts are to be created and it is hoped they will be recruited from current staff.

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