Concern over family assessment unit

People living next to a planned new family assessment unit in Kingswood have raised fears over anti-social behaviour and parking problems. The unit will be created in a quiet cul-de-sac and used by social workers to assess if troubled parents are capable of caring for their children.

A three-bedroomed house on Woodchester will be converted into a family assessment unit after South Gloucestershire Council granted planning permission. 

Councillors on the development management committee on Thursday, February 15, heard concerns from some neighbours.

The unit will provide a safe environment for children or babies and their parents to receive support for about 12 weeks, and then return to independent living if safe to do so. But residents living nearby said the parking and nature of the clients could lead to their houses losing value.

One resident said: “The residents of Woodchester know each other well and look out for each other. We have many elderly and vulnerable residents who have lived on the street for a long time, and they rely on the assurance of knowing who is living alongside them to maintain a sense of wellbeing and security.

“There’s understandably a high level of upset and anxiety about the proposed plans, with unfamiliar residents moving in and out of the family assessment unit every 12 weeks, and a high turnover of staff, support workers and visitors. We’re highly concerned about the possibility of anti-social behaviour. Woodchester has very little space leftover for additional parking.”

Referrals would be taken from local authorities and family solicitors. The maximum number of clients would be three mothers or fathers with one child each. There would be a maximum of three family support workers during the day but only one support worker at night.

Occupants would not be allowed visitors to the property. Interaction between parents and their children would be assessed by family engagement workers, a psychologist and social workers. Some neighbours objected to the plans because they feared the family assessment unit would increase traffic and make it harder for them to park their cars.

Writing to the council, one neighbour said: “We experienced real difficulty getting back to our house when we returned from a long journey towing our caravan, and couldn’t get through the street to our house. We had to get neighbours to move their cars in order for us to continue to our house. Fortunately we had changed our whole front garden into a driveway, so that we didn’t have to park our cars on the road when we eventually got home.”

Councillors on the cross-party committee voted to approve planning permission for the unit. They were told by council staff that the type of occupants staying in the house was not a formal reason for refusing permission, and there were several spaces available for parking cars.

Conservative Councillor June Bamford, representing Hanham, said: “The people there will realise that if they don’t follow the rules, then that might be the last chance they have of keeping their child. Their child could then be put up for adoption.”

By Alex Seabrook, Local Democracy Reporting Service