The gap between the rhetoric and the reality of Government proposals for children's homes is increasingly deep. I am increasingly at a loss to find a way to help Ministers find the empathy for the situation the sector now finds itself placed in. We need our Ministers to be role models of effective child care policy and practice, and essential for good residential child care is something called reflective practice.
All we know about Looked After Children tells us that stability of living arrangements is a key factor to achieve. With it comes the opportunity to experience those sharing pieces of life that make all the difference but which in our busy lives we speak of far too little, a feeling of belonging, development of trust, the acceptance that builds self-esteem and feeling understood.
The right place at the right time for the right child. If we are to do this we need to do many things differently than we do now. Currently no children's home can feel safe secure and cared for because of the many pressures, especially those concerning finance and regulation, that are being applied to them.
The secretary of state for Education, Michael Gove, did something profoundly useful this last week, lifting the ban on revealing the locations of children's homes in the UK; the places that house our forlorn and forgotten few who are wards of the state, placed there for a variety of reasons usually owing to abusive and neglectful parents.
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.
Insistent, persistent and consistent leadership for children's homes would do much to provide continuity and inspiration as the residential child care sector undergoes reforms proposed by the government. The Independent Children's Homes Association supports reform more generally, and played a role in formulating the proposed reforms now open for public consultation.
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.
In these difficult times protecting and promoting the well-being of the most vulnerable children in society must be our absolute priority, now more than ever. The introduction of the Children and Families Bill couldn't have come at a better time - it is an eagerly awaited piece of legislation which is long overdue.
In every children's homes placement, there are many human factors to consider. Decisions as to how to meet the needs of the young people require experience, knowledge, training and know-how. Looked after children and children's homes deserve the support of their corporate parents, including you and me, engaging in complex public discussion rather than simplistic sensationalism.
Children's homes can provide the upbringing a young people deserves. Opportunities struggled for and achieved despite a system that actively undermines such success deserves national public recognition. Imagine the self-esteem that would be shared by young people and staff. Imagine the change in public perception.