GUARDIAN reporter Pete Henshaw visits the Willaston care centre to find out the facts of Redsands.

ON entering Redsands Children's Home I would be the first to admit I did not know what to expect and the overwhelming feeling was one of apprehension.

But then again, if you were asked to explain what Redsands is and what it does, would you be able to answer and more importantly would you be able to answer accurately?

Redsands is a Cheshire County Council-run institution based on Crewe Road in Willaston and which often suffers from stereotyping.

The centre has the capacity to house 32 children who, according to Brian Ford, Community Development Officer "have all had problems and have had a difficult beginning to their life."

"Children who come to Redsands have complex needs and they may have a history of difficult behaviour, and only sometimes is this criminal behaviour," he said.

"We know that Redsands is known in the locality as the Naughty Boys' School but the girls and boys here may well have suffered emotionally because of the effects of abuse or neglect," he added.

There are currently 30 children occupying the five units at Redsands and there is also a secure unit with a capacity of eight which is full and houses children who have been sent there by the courts.

The centre takes children aged between 12 and 16 and is the largest of a network of seven units across Cheshire providing residential care for children, some of which have disabilities.

It is not hard for this reporter to see why some people pre-judge many of the residents in centres such as Redsands, purely because they do not know what is there and are naturally afraid of what they don't know.

But with knowledge comes understanding and after talking with a few of them and being given a first hand look around the buildings you leave with a feeling of hope rather than apprehension.

"All the youngsters who come to Redsands are considered difficult to place and the common feature is a history of disrupted care placements which have been perceived to have failed," said Brian.

"However, we can provide these youngsters with care, guidance and example and our role is to act as a good parent which we define as no nonsense care," he added.

There are more than 80 staff for the 32 children at Redsands which shows in itself the care given to every child 24 hours a day for every day of the year.

"Care, control and consistency are the three key things but the children are expected to own their own actions and be responsible for them," explained Brian.

The children at Redsands are educated on site, having similar term times to schools, and Brian maintains that all children who leave Redsands leave with an improved education.

Even if a child stays for just two weeks they have the chance to gain certificates of education and take part in regular presentations.

Redsands also actively goes out into the community to give its children, as well as other children in care, the chance to link with the outside world.

The successful careers day was reported in the GUARDIAN when it took place this June and also a Health Promotion day was held recently where children were given the chance to talk to dentists, doctors and such about health.

Also planned for the next few months is a talk entitled 'Prison Me?, No Way' which aims to bring home to the children just what prison means.

"We are being creative about giving these youngsters a chance to participate in things they would normally be excluded from," said Brian.

At the end of the day, these children do not want to be at Redsands and they probably all wish they could have had as lucky a start to their lives as you or me.

However, where their luck changes is that they have Redsands and its staff to look out for them and to help them back onto their feet.

Converted for the new archive on 13 March 2001. Some images and formatting may have been lost in the conversion.