The Independent Children's Homes Association (ICHA) is anticipatory of the new Minister for Children being the constant champion for the children's homes.
There is important research on their desk that needs urgent attention, the contents must be telling whoever is appointed that there is an emergency to be sorted regarding the sustaining of Residential Child Care.
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of arranging some visits to children's homes for visitors from Denmark and Australia. I want to share their amazement with you.
Our Danish visitors said they had come to visit as their Government told them the English had some of the finest examples of children's homes in the world. They were amazed to hear that our Residential Child Care sector was not highly valued.
Our Australian visitors were amazed in a different way when experiencing the intensive child-centred support that children's homes provide, ordinary houses providing the setting for extraordinary multi-professional care for young people. They were struck that they were 'real homes' with 'real relationships.' They wanted to linger so long in one home I wondered if we would keep to the timetable.
This is the reality of our children's homes and the message that has to be championed by our new Minister.
Residential Child Care is always moving forwards. Across the country children's homes are hard at work. From April a new set of Quality Standards were brought into operation with an accompanying new Ofsted inspection framework. In many ways bringing to life the new standards is no different than working everyday with young people, you start where you are given and by the end of the day everyone involved is at least one step further forwards. The sector sees these new standards as a new start. Much of 'what works' with troubled and troubling children has been known for decades. Residential Child Care is in a continual process of adding to our knowledge, new ways of doing even better are absorbed readily. The new standards are yet another stage in the continual re-modelling of Residential Child Care.
The sector is taking on this work in less than favourable conditions. The Minister will have many supporters for the teamwork that will be necessary to challenge the ethics and strategy of national and local government that have led to the current parlous situation facing children's homes.
Rapid action is needed to ensure resilient children's homes and this requires a fundamental change to be led by the Minister, for homes to be seen as intensive not expensive.
The most important outcome for this first year of a new start for Residential Child Care will be the establishment of a national strategy for the positive use of residential options for children. The Ministerial task, as ICHA sees it, is to bring the sector in from the edgelands where they have been placed during the last five years.
We require needs-led, rights-based balance in our children's services where residential options and early intervention are seen as equal partners offering services decided according to assessed need.
This links to another achievable outcome to be set for children's services, to reduce the numbers of placements individual children in care have in any one year. Making the right placement first time is effective and efficient child care. It is the way to reduce the costs involved with making five or more placements in a year. Proper assessment and matching, making the 'most appropriate placement' first time will come through the necessary wid