A troubled £2m council children’s home – shut down after just seven months – could be taken over by an external organisation, putting 20 jobs at risk.
Thornhill Road Children’s Home closed in December 2011 after a damning report by the Care and Social Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW) found staff were “overwhelmed” and children had “threatened” each other.
Last July, Cardiff council’s Labour cabinet agreed to re-register and reopen the home, but two attempts to recruit a manager did not receive a single application.
The council is now planning to undertake a “market sounding exercise” to determine whether the running of the home could be outsourced.
The move could put 20 council jobs at risk, and a union representing staff yesterday vowed to fight the plan “tooth and nail”.
Angela Bourge, the council’s operations manager for resources, said the home’s history may have been one of the reasons the council had not filled the manager vacancy, which had a salary of up to £38,000.
“There was no interest at all – not even in terms of people phoning up and inquiring about the post,” she said.
“People would have done some background research in terms of the home.
“For all the things we were seeing as real opportunities, they may have been seen as risky by some.”
Following the home’s closure, some of the children were given care outside Cardiff, costing the council about £40,000 a year per child.
Councillor Richard Cook, cabinet member for children’s services, said he was “extremely disappointed” the council had failed to reopen the home itself.
“We need to get that home open, running and full of children as soon as possible. It’s far better for children to be in Cardiff than out of Cardiff,” he said.
“Whatever happens, the home would remain the property of the council. We are not talking about selling it to another organisation, but we are possibly talking about another organisation running it for us or with us.”
Coun Cook said compulsory redundancies were unlikely as there were enough vacancies within children’s services to redeploy the home’s existing staff.
Ms Bourge said children’s charities had already expressed an interest in running the home, but it could take another year before it reopens.
A spokeswoman for the GMB union said, given the circumstances, the council should have offered a higher wage to attract a manager.
“The GMB will oppose the outsourcing of Thornhill Road,” she said.
“It has not gone unnoticed that they can find £500 a day to employ consultants in children’s services but the same effort has not gone into procuring a manager for Thornhill Road.”
The home, at 150 Thornhill Road – previously the site of another council-run children’s care home, John Kane House – opened in May 2010.
The purpose-built facility cost £1.92m and was designed to look after a maximum of eight children with behavioural problems, aged between 11 and 18, at any one time.
A spokeswoman for Cardiff council said: “There is no agenda to outsource services in children’s services. The agenda is to improve the outcomes for all children in Cardiff who need the help of children’s services.
“In the 2013/14 budget there will be no job losses in children’s services and there are bids in for more posts to help relieve the increasing pressures on our hard working staff.
“I am confident that the cabinet will agree to invest more resources in order to increase the number of staff directly employed by the council in children’s services.”