THE BLOG

Government Recommendations for Children's Homes on Right Road for Right Place at Right Time

29/04/2013 12:13 BST | Updated 28/06/2013 10:12 BST

The Government can count on members of the Independent Children's Homes Association to co-operate enthusiastically as it implements reforms in the residential child care sector protecting and promoting the interests of vulnerable looked after children. The ICHA has long urged action and sought allies in pursuit of these goals.

Edward Timpson slams an "out of sight, out of mind" culture and a "tendency to apply much lower standards and aspirations to children in care - whether it be safety, a suitable home environment, or educational attainment - than would ever be thought acceptable for others."

All music to our ears. This is why we were very happy to take part when the Minister established expert groups to advise on reform of the children's home system. I played an active role in these groups over a seven month period.

We applaud the decision to change the rules so that Ofsted can share the names and addresses of children's homes with the police and others. New partnerships are being created across the country.

We agree with the new rule that a decision to place a child in care out of their own authority boundary needs to be authorised by a senior official, who will have to be satisfied that the placement is in the child's best interest and will meet their specific needs, both incidentally should already be existing practice.

Providers welcome the clarifications on children going missing. These are designed to accurately collect the figures on children missing from care whilst also being direct on who needs to do what and when.

We are pleased that he acknowledges that many residential child care workers display great commitment and relentless dedication in providing a stable and caring environment for these children but that quality matters. These positive attributes are not enough though. Young people living in children's homes have needs that can be unlike any others in the country and as such they need a skilled workforce.

The ICHA is strongly committed to comprehensive transformation not only of children's homes but also all placements for looked after children and indeed the whole looked after children's system.

We hope that there will be many more announcements. If these are all that results then it will be too little, too slow. This time this Government, others before have let similar situations slip, must not let the recommendations be diluted or diverted. If we hear of any roll back being suggested from any quarter this will spur us on continuing to assert the need for whole system reform and ensure we achieve the transformations needed.

We hope that the Minister also shines a light on local authorities and fostering. What happens in children's homes is often a correlation of what goes before.

Society secures positive children's homes in a positive children's services system. This requires shared responsibility, including from national and local government, to ensure the right placement at the right time for each child on robust social work grounds and thoroughly supported by social workers and others.

The sector is awaiting an announcement that is key to all changes: a revised Sufficiency and Diversity duty for local authorities that will deliver not only the audits of need but also the planning of placements locally, regionally and nationally that will be inextricably linked to the workforce development that has been the conclusion of so many previous reports.

The sector seeks new and open collaboration and to avoid the tendency to make folk devils and address issues with narrative and analysis rather than drama and sensationalism. The ICHA has made sure its members all over the country have received information and initial action plans are being put into practice to create even better children's homes supporting a better life for the most important people in the equation - looked after children.