The pandemic has exposed inequality and insecurity, and made us re-evaluate what is most important to us. It has also exposed that children’s lives, especially those of children in care, are interdependent. We must work together to tackle the challenges that face us. Government appreciates and embraces its responsibility as corporate parent.
All children, and especially children in care, benefit from a fairer, healthier society. The levelling up of this Government aspires to deliver on both. Now is the time to increase investment to end poverty, a predominant cause of the need for a care system. We must ensure all communities offer a rich environment for all children and families through resilient funding for services. We must enable early and specialist intervention ending the split between the two that leaves both underfunded.
Our Residential Child Care workforce has been heroic in rising to the challenge of the pandemic – and now it needs investment.
We will bring forwards a National Care Service Bill to ensure the future of Residential Child Care as a public service administered by public servants. Residential Child Care will be centrally funded by national government and locally administered through local authorities and providers together in new cooperative arrangements informed by Common Pool Resourcing methods. Being removed from the burden of funding, local authorities can focus on planning and delivery.
We will increase the pay of Residential Child Care Workers by 15%, and ensure all Residential Child Care workers in all settings and employment enjoy the same terms and conditions. People have made huge sacrifices and deserve to share in the recovery.
A low pay Residential Child Care sector compromises meeting the needs of children so a Real Living Wage Bill will include proposals to lift all Residential Child Care Workers pay as part of ending the indignity of low pay in children’s services. The pay gap between Residential Child Care Workers and the directors/boardroom, in private, local authority or voluntary organisations, must be urgently and significantly narrowed.
The National Care Service Bill will co-ordinate care, raise standards and channel investment in providing dignity and empowerment for all those children receiving care in a residential setting. It will mean free care as part of a definancialised sector, a fully universal, free service mirroring our NHS. We will embrace, adopt and work to the benchmark “Would this be good enough for my child”?
We will prioritise meeting the assessed needs of young people establishing planned provision as local as possible as specialist as necessary. A needs audit will lead to local, regional and national planning.
It is recognised that the current imbalance in ownership is creating difficulties in matching need to placement especially for high level needs. The government will bring forwards a strategy to balance ownership. This will require more local authority and voluntary organisation homes. We will end the sufficiency duty committing to the full meeting of assessed needs. True sufficiency is every child having the right home at the right time in the right place, each designed to deliver the quality, safety and specialisms necessary to meet need. Experience shows this requires local, regional and national planning rather than an uncoordinated market mechanism.
As part of our ‘levelling up’ agenda Residential Child Care will be viewed as the equal of other placements and interventions. Young people will be assured the right place at the right time, and the fullest period in Residential Child Care to maximise benefit from the relationships established. We will end the short term and last resort culture and operation. When it meets assessed needs, it will be the placement of choice.
Children will remain in their placement, regardless of type, by reference to their assessed needs, wishes and feelings not their age. Any child will be able to enact a ‘freezing protocol’ to place on hold any placement move that has not been assessed as in their interests. We recognise a children’s home as a home, not an intervention. The ‘care cliff’ will be eradicated.
All children’s homes offering care and, or support to children under the age of 18 will be required to register with Ofsted and be subject to the inspection schedule (Social Care Common Inspection Framework) for the Children’s Homes regulations and Quality Standards, 2015 and/or any future revisions of those regulations and standards. Individuals or organisations failing to register will be banned for life from operating or having a financial interest in a children’s home.
Having a National Care Service will enable all children in care to receive ongoing support beyond 18 in the Local Authority where their last placement is located, or where they choose to set up home, not from their ‘home’ Local Authority’.
Children in care who have contact with the police, in connection with alleged criminality, will be assured through the implementation of a National Protocol for the Decriminalisation of Children in Care and Care Leavers and the Criminal Justice System that they will receive consistency of approach regardless of their geographical provenance.
We will bring forward a Poverty Reduction Bill to commit to eradicating poverty by 2030 with a minimum income guarantee. No child shall be hungry, no adult without opportunity, and no one forced to choose between heating and eating. A Right to Food Bill will end the scandal of hunger and food banks in this country, and provide universal free school meals. A Right to Play Bill will maximise children’s physical and emotional development.
To pay for this a Finance Bill will ensure that those companies that profited during the pandemic pay a windfall tax on any excess profits. It will ensure that income from wealth is taxed at the same level as income from work, and those earning the very highest salaries will pay a little more tax – with no tax rises for 95% of workers. We will work to deliver a global minimum rate of corporation tax and clamp down on tax havens and avoidance more widely. We recognise this will require better regulation.
Residential Child Care Workers will be given recognised professional status and a new professional organisation. This will redress the current imbalance in children’s services. Residential Child Care Workers along with foster carers are the social care frontline.
Staffing will be directed to achieving continuous CPD and confirmed work-life balance, both are vital for retaining an experienced knowledgeable workforce.
A Residential Child Care Workers Wellbeing Charter will be initiated in advance of changes to regulation that will see well-being as an inspected aspect of Residential Child Care. The emotional life of a Residential Child Care Worker has to be recognised, respected, provided for and protected.
The National Education Service Bill will legislate for all children in care to be in schools that are Good or better. There will be changes to the Admissions Code that will ensure no school can evade ensuring admissions for children from children’s homes are accepted. Children living in residential care will be allocated a school within 3 working days of their admission to the children’s home. The roll of all schools will be accountable to the Virtual School Head and through them the communities that they serve. Pupil premium will follow the child and be a specific part of Personal Education Planning.
A Digital Inclusion Bill will ensure universal free superfast broadband to all children’s homes and ensure every child has their own computer complete with all parental safeguards.
A Corporate Governance Bill will ensure representative Residential Child Care Workers sit on the boards of all provider organisations regardless of ownership. Those with private ownership will be required to ensure Residential Child Care Workers have shares in the enterprise so they share in the wealth they create.
A Late Payments Bill will strengthen the rights of providers with a local authority. It will ensure that all invoices are settled within 10 working days.
An Audit Reform Bill will legally ensure open book accounting. Providers providing placements will work to the same transparency and accountability as public service providers through a Freedom of Information (Extension) Bill.
It is not just in the workplace that power needs to shift, but in the housing market too. Prospective providers will be able to be funded through the national infrastructure bank avoiding private finance or SIBs. This funding will make investment possible for the many not the few. It will be affordable, redefining ownership patterns in the sector. Property will be committed for use rather than a service for a provider from which profit is extracted.
Bank and agency Residential Child Care Workers will have the same work benefits as full time. New regulations will be brought forwards to ensure local regional and national coordination.
All Children in Care will be entitled to free transport passes, as will all Residential Child Care Workers when accompanying a child issued with a valid pass.
There will be a cap on profit extraction, with surplus above 15% being reinvested in the provision or paid directly into the newly created ‘Care bank’ which will be a national resource offering financial after care support to care leavers across the country.
Care status will be placed on a legislative footing alongside gender, race, disability, sexuality or age, and co-ordinated through a new Department for Equality. The UNCRC will be incorporated into law
A Migrants Rights Bill will ensure international workers can bring their expertise to benefit children.
Love and care will be restored to all children in care under a Wellbeing of Future Generations Bill that will ensure that we will include the right to services as part of corporate parenting for all care leavers, as Through and Continuing Care, ensuring prosperity, resilience, health, education, equality, community cohesion, benefits the environment, and is provided throughout the life cycle
To enhance democracy for children in care as part of a Democratic Accountability Bill CiCCs will be given powers and funding (including access to the Care Bank’) to act as Children’s Rights champions independent of each Local Authority.
Children in care are ‘our children’; we will love, care, and support them as we would our birth children.
Jonathan Stanley and Ed Nixon