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NCERCC Initial Response To The Children’s Commissioner Report Reforming Children’s Homes: A Policy Plan Of Action July 2022

NCERCC initial response to the Children’s Commissioner report Reforming children’s homes: a policy plan of action July 2022

Institutional

The term usually is applied in 2 ways – size of building and practice

The evidence

  • Children’s homes are mostly ordinary houses in ordinary streets. They are not large.
  • Any family or other setting can be institutional when it is not the needs of the child that are central. The child centredness of the care is included in the Ofsted SCCIF.

‘… blurring the lines between institutions and homes’ is unacceptable. No children’s home should be institutional and it is in the very first principle of the Quality Standards that they should be ‘homely’

The role and task of RCC is a social construction. It is not created solely by the providers.

As such it is incumbent on any commentator to consider the context and culture of RCC

We get positive children’s homes in positive children’s services.

It is incumbent on any commentators to address the evidence

The Ofsted statistics need to be discussed. If there are criticisms of inspection these needs to be stated.

‘… but if it is the other side of the country, not linked up to an equally excellent education placement or unable to support a child if their needs change, then the home is not good enough for them’.

This being the case then it is open to LAs to open or commission homes, and create learning spaces.

A minimum set of expectations were ended with the Quality Standards

The standards for children’s homes have been raised several times within ghe inspection frameworks applied.

Concurrently, National Minimum Standards were no longer seen as fit for purpose.

There were meant to be a series of Quality Standards for other placement types.

Systemic deficits are placed on RCC shoulders

Peremptory closure of placement can be a decision of a provider or local authority.

Regulation 5 makes it the responsibility of the RM to challenge local services – schools or mental health. Having done so the services should respond.

Attribution and contribution must be clear assigned.

Every child needing a children’s home should find one is available for them as close to home as possible

As local as possible and as specialised as necessary requires planned local, regional and national provision resulting from a needs analysis undertaken by all LAs. It is not possible for a LA to meet all needs.

NCERCC has recently been undertaking these needs analyses resulting in a different configuration of needs and homes needed being made visible and viable.

It is not sufficiency that is needed, this leads to numbers.

It is specificity that is needed – what works for whom.

The current market-based methodology (commissioning and procurement) does not include homes to meet all needs. There is a lack of sufficient and importantly specific capacity. This results in inappropriate waits and temporary placement making.

Better is the probability of ‘right placement first time’ made possible through planning.

This results in a different closer and earlier relationship of residential child care with children’s services, where residential options are seen as a positive choice. This and the range and location of homes makes for earlier, timely and smaller transitions psychologically and geographically.

There is potential for the role of the commissioning to change to be less about procurement from what is available and more towards dialogue, matching, trend analysis, planned creation of or adaptation of homes. More analyse, plan, do, review than seek and secure

Every child should be able to trust that their children’s home place will be theirs as long as they need it

Any move must be by assessment. Homes adapt but it is also the case that a Statement of Purpose needs to focus on specific needs for the care to effective. Generic admissions have ceased. No home should be asked to meet all needs – it is not child-centred. Flexibility can lead to genericism, a place we have grown onwards from.

The social construction of the use of RCC is as an intervention. We use RCC sequentially and hierarchically as the last resort. This is unevidenced and ineffective.

The need is for sophistication not simplification. This comes through the recognition of the development of the child directing then environment needed: specialist, step down solo placement as child learn to live with self, larger group i.e. solo-placement for 18 months-2 years, then a small group home of no more than 2 children in total for a further 18 months-2 years, then a larger group setting of 4-5 children up to age +18 followed by specialist Supported Accommodation with high support.

Every child should be heard, seen and safe

The Quality Standards are stronger. A child must ‘feel safe and be safe’.

This results from the quality of relationships and care.

The triangulation between the SW, the IRO, the R44, Ofsted is important to be retained not ceased as in the Care Review.

SW seeing their role as parenting is important.

Every child in a children’s home should be supported to develop and maintain important relationships

Yes. Every children’s homes needs to be in environment where relationships are made with it

Family work in children’s homes includes ’family-in-mind’ work for those who cannot have contact.

Every child in a children’s home should be getting education and mental health care

A children’s home is more than a ‘package of care’

It is not only schools that are needed but alternative learning space and methods, often education has to be creatively brought to the interest and activities of a child who has rejected school-based learning.  Nurture as a concept and a practice is vital when psychological and emotional processes have been affected by life experiences to the degree that the experience of a ‘secure base’ from which to explore the world has been severely affected.

A change in the School Admission Code is required.

All homes will benefit from their own psychological, psychiatric and therapy teams. Will the DfE fund LAs for providers to provide? Will the DfE fund workforce development of these important support services as well as enable all RCCWs to be skilled mental health practitioners?

Every home should be giving children the ability to develop and pursue their interests

Any move for any child is disorientating and to a greater or lesser degree a frightening time for a child.

Creativity is at the root of RCC practice. Expression is part of recovery.

A home where children are involved in decision making about the home is more effective.

Participation is not consultation.

Each child needs a regular activity/hobby.

Children leaving care should be supported to stay close and linked to their children’s homes

Staying Put is not the same as Staying Close

Agreed. ‘For children in foster care, there are arrangements for them to ‘Stay Put’ with their foster carers until the age of 21. The Department for Education has piloted ‘Staying Close’ for children in children’s homes – to continue to get a degree of support from staff in the homes. We want to more children to be able to benefit from Staying Close arrangements, as well as more innovative models of children’s homes which allow for over eighteens to stay part of the home’.

It is already possible for 18+ to stay in their children’s home under the ‘wholly or mainly’ aspect of the legislation. For the Children’s Commissioner desire to be made real will need LAs to fund 18+ ( or,  it needs to be stated, 16+ in some cases) in a children’s home.

Comment on the recommendations

Specificity not sufficiency = stability

A needs analysis directs needs-directed needs-led provision.

The following is repeated for effect

The current market-based methodology (commissioning and procurement) does not include homes to meet all needs. There is a lack of sufficient and importantly specific capacity. This results in inappropriate waits and temporary placement making.

Better is the probability of ‘right placement first time’ made possible through planning.

This results in a different closer and earlier relationship of residential child care with children’s services, where residential options are seen as a positive choice. This and the range and location of homes makes for earlier, timely and smaller transitions psychologically and geographically.

There is potential for the role of the commissioning to change to be less about procurement from what is available and more towards dialogue, matching, trend analysis, planned creation of or adaptation of homes. More analyse, plan, do, review than seek and secure

It should be noted that some of the aspects ascribed to children’s homes are not the responsibility nor do they have the authority to take action to remedy the deficits

NCERCC