“Home Truths” about the struggle for survival of children’s homes

Jonathan Stanley, the Chief Executive Officer for the Independent Children’s Homes and of the National Centre for Excellence in Residential Child care has written to us about a new report which Children’s homes providers have published, ‘Home Truths – The state of independent residential child care 2014.
He suggests, “No other report has ever contained such a level of concern for the present and future of Residential Child Care.  It looks at the current situation, records experiences and charts the potential futures of what the authors see as an ‘unprecedented culture of anti-residential feeling.’”
In launching the report Jonathan  said, “The sector meets extraordinary needs with extraordinary responses yet is under-estimated, under-valued and under-funded.  Though providers have embraced reform, the report shows our nation’s homes do not have the necessary firm foundation for their future.  To change this situation will require Government-led clear strategic direction, commitment, creativity and courage.  We need people to step up for Residential Child Care.”
He believes “Alarm bells must start ringing. It has to be of major concern that this vital sector is experiencing demoralisation and fears irrevocable damage through its further diminution and contraction, even collapse, as providers disappear.  We are very far away from the one common shared future for Residential Child Care that is needed, to ensure the continuation of the specialism, safety and choice our young people need.”
The report sees children’s homes as necessary and needed, highly regulated, with a workforce of experienced, knowledgeable and committed professionals offering versatility, diversity and flexibility, in the very complex and difficult task of meeting the needs of the most vulnerable and challenging group of young people in the UK.
Providers report fees from local authorities being driven down to unsustainable levels, regardless of the quality of the provision and call for an end to what they call local authorities ‘in-house-ism’, where their own resources are used first often leading to increased moves for a young person.  The report makes the call for new thinking, collaborative work between local authorities and providers to get the ‘right child in the right place – first time!’  The providers see costs frequently being prioritised over care considerations.  They also see that standardised benchmarking for needs/behaviours across all local authorities will assist in giving an accurate indication of the needs of the young person.
The providers seek a new partnership with Ofsted away from what is reported as a ‘toxic environment,’ arising from experiences of individual inspector interpretation and adversarial and attritional inspection.  One result given in the report is of providers acting to maintain good or outstanding ratings, by reducing the level of needs they previously admitted, resulting in some young people not having access to the services they need.  The report calls for inspections directed to improvement.
The providers call for an ambitious review of qualifications, radically changing the current requirements and delivery, and look to something similar to the professional teacher’s qualification.