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TV star Challis joins campaign calling for children's home to be moved
A BURGLARY at the home of TV star John Challis has led to a children's care home being told to leave the area.
A public meeting at Adforton Church voted unanimously for Keys Childcare to look for an alternative location for the Mill Cottage home after hearing how the Only Fools and Horses star was burgled earlier this year.
Mr Challis, who lives at Wigmore Abbey, told the meeting two boys from the home based in Paytoe, near Leintwardine , broke into his house when he was on holiday.
“To be told by the company, after this latest incident when two of the boys got out and broke into the house on two separate occasions, that the home did not feel their staff had been negligent, I find unbelievable,”
said Mr Challis.
“I understand the need to look after unfortunate young people.
It is a very difficult job but this is totally in the wrong place.”
Emma Beech, divisional director for Keys Childcare which has run the home since March 2011, apologised for the distress caused by the burglary.
“The young man who was seen to be instigating that incident was not dealt with by the courts. He did not return to the property following that incident,”
said Ms Beech “We endeavoured to compensate Mr and Mrs Challis in whatever way we could. The incident in February was the first time I was aware with problems with the community.
“It was us that noticed the burglar alarm had gone off and we called the police.
“The two young people had slipped through the front door. This is a home environment when they get out there is no ‘escape’.”
Inspector Nick Semper told the meeting that the home had a history of anti-social behaviour which made residents anxious.
Arrests were made after the burglary, he said, and charges issued but the Crown Prosecution Service decided against prosecution.
He said in the first six months of this year there were 26 police incidents in Adforton with 19 concerning Mill Cottage. These included nine calls about children absconding from the home.
“These nine episodes in 2012 have cost £22,500,” he said. “There have been 72 missing persons reports since 2005 costing £180,000.
“We need to recognise that an inappropriate placing of young people fails everyone.
Above all it fails the child.
“The home has existed for more than 10 years, and it is fair to say that it has caused a large impact on local policing over that time. The point has been reached where local residents state that it has become intolerable.”
But Ms Beech told the meeting her records do not show that level of involvement.
A proposal worded that owners Keys Childcare “go from this meeting and accept that they have been required to look for another property in a more suitable setting”
was voted for unanimously by members of the public.
Keys Childcare has been given a month to respond.
Ms Beech told the meeting the company hadn’t acquired the home to “close it or move it. Our aim is to work with you to alleviate any distress or impact on the community.”
The home houses three young people described as 'extremely vulnerable' by Keys but not requiring secure accommodation.
Following the meeting the company said in a statement: “Many of the issues raised pre-date Keys’ ownership of the home. We are always happy to respond to concerns and help reassure neighbours that we take their worries seriously.
“Keys Childcare is an experienced provider of care and has an excellent track record in providing positive outcomes for the children and young people in its care.
“This facility is home for children who are in care through no fault of their own and they deserve the support of a kind and caring community. These children have an important role to play in our society and it is essential they get the best start possible.”