A company planning to open a private home for looked after children has denied they plan to place young offenders at the property.
Freshstart Care Ltd has submitted a planning application to house people between the ages of 11-18 in Llwynhendy, near Llanelli.
Local people are protesting against the plans over concerns the property could be used to house young offenders.
The company said there would be “a stringent referral process”.
The application for change of use is being strongly opposed by Carmarthenshire County Council, which will determine the outcome for the semi-detached property at Erw Las called Han y Bont.
Freshstart Care Ltd said they would be housing “vulnerable, neglected and disadvantaged children, that are currently in local authority care” and would not be “accommodating children who are in the justice system”.
The local authority has already said that no children from Carmarthenshire would be housed at the proposed facility.
In a written objection to the planning application, the council’s children services department said “it does not use private residential homes for our looked after children, so the proposed centre will be utilised by outside local authorities.
“Carmarthenshire is already a net receiver of a large number of looked after children and young people from other local authority areas.”
It said the home would provide additional work for the teams who deal with young people with complex needs and challenging behaviour, and would also place a strain on schools and health services.
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In a further statement, Jake Morgan, director of communities said: “There are 180 children looked after placed from other authorities and their high needs place a strain on our school and health services.
“They use already under strain services established for children from Carmarthenshire.
“Costs of these services from private providers range from £3,000 to £5,000 a week and local children have no need for them thus they will be used by some of the most vulnerable children from other authorities in England and Wales.”
Local community councillor Steve Donoghue told BBC Wales he was concerned the home would place an extra burden on already stretched services.
“Resources are stretched. Police, NHS in this area. We’ve had years of cutbacks.
“I think it’s unfair to put a further strain on a rural community. This type of facility would be better off in a city centre.”
The local MP Nia Griffith is also opposing the scheme, and has called on the council to reject the plans.
“I have a real concern about farming out looked after children to private companies,” she said.
“It’s a completely wrong motive for looking after children. It does worry me that we have a company that’s come out of nowhere, with no record of having ‘looked after children’.
“This model of privatising children’s care is not helping the children.”
In response, Freshstart Care Ltd said its management team had more than 30 years experience in providing therapeutic care and support to some of the most vulnerable children in the UK.
Two members of the team hold managerial positions within social services.
Companies House records show the company itself was registered in January 2019.
Local resident Brian Lewis, 74, said: “People are not happy. What kind of children’s home will it be?
“They’ll be looking after children who can’t stay anywhere else because of their wrong-doing.
“There’s no doubt it’s a business. They could get £4,000 a child per week. You’re talking about £20,000 a week. It’s a lot of money.”
Ms Griffith said she also had concerns about the site.
“Why choose somewhere where there is no pavement, where it’s dangerous to cycle?”
“This is a ridiculous place if you want children to integrate into the local community.
“It’s just not the right place to put this. It’s not the right kind of property or area. I wouldn’t want children to be put there.”
The company said it would provide high-quality facilities for the young residents and “have the intention of employing qualified, experienced and committed staff members who have the children’s interests at heart”.
It also said the home would have to meet “stringent requirements” and would be regulated by Care Inspectorate Wales.
The property is currently owned by Marc Clement, who was recently dismissed as the dean of the school of management at Swansea University, although Freshstart Care Ltd said he had “no standing in the company”.
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