FOUR children's residential homes in the county will be closed, the council has said.

Worcestershire County Council said it is closing the homes to pay for services that would stop children going into care in the first place.

Six of the council's 12 homes have been highlighted for possible closure with four definitely shutting.

Old Hollow in Malvern will close after the owners said they intend to sell it and will not be replaced. A home in Tenbury is already closed and will not re-open.

Two more homes will close out of Oak House in Worcester, Rivendell in Bromsgrove, The Riddings in Bricklehampton near Pershore and Orchardene in Pershore.

Currently 19 of the council's 820 children in care would be affected by the closures.

The council plans to change its approach to vulnerable children and emulate the work of Essex County Council - the authority's improvement partner for children's social care - by reducing the number of children in care and keeping children at home whenever possible.

A report, to be discussed by the council's cabinet at a meeting on October 18, says measures taken by Essex reduced the number of children in care by seven per cent.

Councillor Andy Roberts, cabinet member for children and families, said: "Supporting our children and families to stay together when it is in the best interests of the child has to be the right thing to do.

“Children and young people who enter care often perform less well at school and are much more likely to achieve poor outcomes later in life.

“By investing more into preventing our children from coming into the care system, we can keep families together and improve the lives of our children and young people."

The replacement Edge of Care service would cost around £1.9 million a year to run - with money saved from the closures paying for it.

Closing the homes and running the service would provide savings of between £500,000 and £1.2 million, the council said.

Tina Russell, assistant director of children's services, said: "We have a duty and responsibility to promote the welfare of children and, where it is possible and safe to do so, to promote the upbringing of children by their parents.

“Our Edge of Care offer will enable us to respond to families in need and in crisis and support them to develop skills and solutions to the challenges they face."