A FIRM which offers activities to children at risk of exclusion schools has unveiled a proposal to launch residential care home to cater for the growing number of youngsters in care.

Future Pathways, which is paid by Darlington Borough Council to build confidence, establish skills and provide experiences for disengaged young people, has lodged plans with the authority to convert offices on Grange Road into a children’s home.

The proposals have been lodged following a rise in the number of children in care in the borough as a result of the Covid-19 court backlogs, but the year before the pandemic saw the number of children and young people in care rise two per cent to 270.

In April last year Darlington had a rate of 120.1 children in care per 10,000 population, which is higher than regional, statistical, and national benchmarks.

Documents submitted with the planning application state Darlington has experienced particular challenges in sourcing residential accommodation for a small core group of very complex young people with intensive support needs.

The firm’s care home manager, Jill Gray, said it had had outstanding results as all children we work with had fully engaged and its staff had “a passion to enhance the life experiences of young people and raise their aspirations”.

She said: “We would like to develop a holistic approach for looked after children and provide a full 24/7 package. Over time we recognise that our strength lies in the relationships we build with young people.

“Youth Pathways will offer young people a stable, small and secure home environment and meet the basic needs offered in any family setting.”

While proposals to establish similar homes in the borough have previously triggered concerns among neighbours, the planning documents state the children living at the Grange Road property would be given challenges and encouraged in hobbies and sporting activities “to ensure they develop positive growth mindset”.

The papers state staff will be working 24/7 to ensure the children are constantly supervised. They added: “The small residential care home will provide the same functions of any functional family.”