20/09/2013 07:43 BST | Updated 20/09/2013 07:43 BST

Consistency and Quality of Information Needed By Children's Homes From Local Authorities

Just days after Michael Gove's recent comments about local authorities and other agencies supporting children's homes new research shows that the consistency and quality of information given by councils to children's homes providers needs urgent improvement.

The 1989 Children Act obliges local authorities to provide looked-after children with the 'most appropriate placement to meet their needs and improve their outcomes.' Placement Request Forms should be a key tool in passing vital information on these children and young people to the homes, to ensure they know about the needs to be met.

The research

was conducted for the Independent Children's Homes Association (ICHA) by CICADA Services and is based on responses to Freedom Of Information requests from 129 out of 152 local authorities. It reveals that local authorities have developed hundreds of different placement procedures and forms - some good and some less helpful - in the absence of national regulations governing information given to potential child care providers.

The ICHA is urging local authorities to work in partnership with providers to develop a single national form that is genuinely 'fit for purpose'.

The CICADA report notes that: "Sourcing the 'most appropriate placement' for a child is a complex and difficult task. Those responsible for doing so need to have a good knowledge of the market, an understanding of the child's needs, and effective tools for the job.

The importance of effective matching should not be underestimated. Since 2000, there has been a plethora of research reports which conclude that intelligent and proper placement matching is one of the most important things to get right, to enable a child to fulfil their potential and to secure best value for the tax payer.

Commissioning colleagues engaged in the day-to-day work of placements and contracts are extremely receptive to the report and see it as identifying the need for urgent change.

Making sure that a looked-after child is matched to the best placement is one of the most important decisions in that child's life. Some councils pull out all the stops to make sure that potential providers are furnished with the right information so they can best judge if they can look after the child.

We need consistency and quality everywhere and we are sharing our research with local authorities and the Minister as part of the dialogue to get this crucial matching process right.