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Coral Reefs Thinking For Residential Child Care Future Funding?

Coral Reefs Thinking for Residential Child Care Future Funding?

The Spending Review announced £259 million “to maintain capacity and expand provision in secure and open residential children’s homes” needs using wisely. This money starts to be available 2022 until 2025.

A further £104 million to be used by 2024-25 is “to take forwards reforms to unregulated provision in children’s social care, improving safeguarding standards for some of our most vulnerable children and young people”

The first analysis by NCERCC of these considerable amounts show them to be insufficient to provide redress to the needs of the current situation.

Early analysis shows the funds will not provide the homes or places needed to meet the current demand (see forthcoming NCERCC analysis), and all the indications are more children are anticipated. The new Ofsted guidance regarding single registration and management of multi-homes tries to solve homes and management but is seen to be lacking when the staffing figures for between 160- 200 200 homes offering 180-240 places require 3000 people to staff them at a time for severe recruitment challenge.

The methodology used to calculate these amounts is not known. As can be seen above when analysing the figures, it does not appear that the sums started identifying where we are and where we need to be and then calculating the funding required as part of a strategy to achieve the result.

With the funding coming onstream in 2022 now is the time to start the thinking. The funding must be used wisely.

The shortfall in homes and places comes from the need for investment. There has been a recent increase in the number of homes. Children’s homes meet a wide range of needs.

The shortfall is of provision to meet high level complex needs. This is the sector or the sector that struggles to attract investment. It is a risky and volatile investment, over the years all providers, as first local authorities, then voluntary organisations and latterly private investors, have found.

The ADCS do not specify what it meant by the ‘right type’ of care and home, but it might be surmised that they are thinking of homes able to meet high level complex needs. As NCERCC has observed over the years local authorities can open their own homes to meet these needs. Statistics published last week show a small net decrease in local authority homes, 6 new registrations and 12 de-registrations in the reporting period. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/local-authority-and-childrens-homes-in-england-inspections-and-outcomes-autumn-2021

How shall we use the funding wisely?

A Nobel prize-winning economic theory used by investors is showing early signs of helping save threatened coral reefs. Can it be used to target the spending for children’s homes? Might quantitative modelling in managing environmental systems be applicable to high level needs in children?

Modern Portfolio Theory helps risk-averse investors maximise returns by identifying the 50 reefs or coral sanctuaries around the world that are most likely to survive the climate crisis and be able to repopulate other reefs if other threats are absent.

First, assemble your high-level complex needs expert group

An expert group is needed who have deep knowledge and lengthy experience of working with high level complex needs. This group have not been involved in anything to date. This might be part of the problem? They are not in the group of people involved thus far.

Second, establish your priority needs

Investment is targeted to projects that have the “strongest potential to succeed” in protecting priority reefs. The gains go beyond positive ecological outcomes and include crucial social, economic, health and nutritional benefits for communities.

This is clearly requiring more than the ‘Innovation Programme. This programme has not had a focus on high level complex needs rather on trying to avoid them occurring. High level needs are a qualitative different order than Innovation Programme thinking to date.

Modern Portfolio Theory is a framework that aims to reduce risk while maximising returns on a wide range of factors. It approaches conservation sort of as an investment opportunity.

Third, the expert group advise on which needs to concentrate efforts on

Just like in the discussions about coral reefs we do not know which metrics are the best metrics at predicting risk. There is no research evidence base. It will be experience that counts. One piece of residential child care research review published by the What works in social care centre looked at manualised and non-manualised approaches, presumably with a view to recommending such programmatic responses. However, other research shows that to achieve the outcomes often requires setting aside manualised approach.

It is clear expert experience will be vital.

Residential child care responses are diverse and creative rather than compliant.

Using further analysis of those children being placed in unregulated settings or identified as ‘hard to place’ by local authorities the experts could establish categories, history, and projections. From here use a process called “scalarisation” to produce estimates for each category. Identifying which intervention is most effective for different needs.

Then use MPT to quantify the best options.

Fourth, don’t put all your eggs in one basket, or bet on one measure of risk, when we have massive uncertainty.

This is one of the learning points from the Innovation Programme. In going all out on prevention it has not studied or invested in high level complex needs that have been exacerbated by the effects of the scarcity and rationing of early intervention now visible in the research regarding the effects of funding cuts on services and needs.

Fifth, the investment needs expert management.

Sector specific knowledge and experience has to be integral to the whole investment project.

First the management will need to be experienced in dynamics of organisations and systems.

Second, the selection of the provision will need expert knowledge.

Third, there will need to be an independent audit of the spending, who gets it, how it is spent, and what new capacity is opened as a result

It has already established in fostering that grants from another ministry have supported a private invested organisation expand their provision. This being a precedent this funding could encompass all investment origins, local authority, voluntary organisations, private. A stated profit/surplus/saving amount ration could be applied.

Child-centred thinking is to open the opportunity to all three types of organisations that run children’s homes. The level of knowledge and expertise is not held by local authorities as strongly as in the other two funding types. It is by no means certain that people working for high level complex needs providers would want to move to become part of a local authority. Or maybe partnership working could be an expected aspect of any bids? Certainly, a new form of relatedness seems possible. 

More on MPT and coral reefs Nobel-winning stock market theory used to help save coral reefs | Coral | The Guardian

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