THE BLOG

Residential Child Care Providers' Response to Secretary of State

16/09/2013 12:39 BST | Updated 16/09/2013 12:39 BST

Children's homes providers, Local Authorities and Government are united in the aim that the right placement is made at the right time for the right child at the right cost.

If are to match the Secretary of State's ambitions we need to be bold and address all the issues we face reforming not only children's homes but Children's Services more widely.

Children's homes providers hold a more comprehensive and radical agenda than the DfE. We need all Local Authorities to know their population of Looked After Children. Once we know the needs and their levels we will be able to plan for the specialist care placements being in the most appropriate places. The DfE have made not proposals for this work as yet. We will continue to urge sophistication not simplification.

We know where home are located. Since April 2013 Ofsted registration details have been shared between Local Authorities, DfE, Police and the Office of the Children's Commissioner.

Many Local Authorities have not been meeting their responsibility to inform the receiving one when placing a child in their area. There are proposals that this become a responsibility of homes and has been well received by providers. Local Authorities now need to say who should be informed and how.

An Out Of Authority placement currently means ones that are round the corner, across the road, as well placements at distance. Only by having a strategy that accurately assesses the level of need will we know which child can be placed locally, regionalyl and nationally. We do not know the numbers of children who can be placed locally but it is not 100% if we want to provide specialism and choice for young people.

Many children who live in children's homes are in exactly the right place. We have world class care in this country that meets exceptional needs.

The current density of locations, North West, West Midlands, Kent, is not a new phenomenon and has existed for decades. The reasons are multifactoral: historical, economic, administrative.

If we are to have homes in different places we will need to replicate the support given by the best local authorities and communities. Some local authorities now demand planning permission to open a children's home and this will slow or stop the change the Secretary of State wants.

The most accurate costs information ever gained has been collated by the National Centre for Excellence in Residential Child Care and Revolution Consulting through a Freedom of Information request to all Local Authorities. Returns from 110 Local Authorities show that on average a place in a Private and Voluntary sector home costs £2841 per week and in a Local Authority home £2490. We know too that the two groups are not comparable.

When we study quality we need to refer to official statistics. Ofsted statistics for inspections April 2013 to March 2103 tell us: 72% of all homes are Good or better: 16% Outstanding, 56% Good, 24% Adequate, 5% inadequate. http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/resources/official-statistics-childrens-social-care-inspections-and-outcomes

The newly published DfE data pack tells us other important child-centred care facts too.

http://education.gov.uk/childrenandyoungpeople/families/childrenincare/childrenshomes/a00192000/childrens-homes-data-pack

Most children in children's homes are aged 14 ½ and 25% have had 5 or more placements. The needs of these children are high yet we are also find out that only one third stay longer than a year not enabled to stay the two or more years we know is optimum.

We need to approach our children's homes as national service for our children with the highest levels of need. Residential Child Care is parenting on behalf of the nation.