What types of needs do children’s homes offer care for? (Published 8th July 2022)
Ofsted report indicates that Government interventions at local and regional level as yet have had little impact on changing the picture reported in previous years.
There are indications in the report as to why that is the case.
To provide insight for policy and actions the report shows an urgent change of approach to government thinking is needed.
The Ofsted dataset uses the 8 types of home categories made for registration purposes. It is clear that this dataset is providing a far too limited base for the ambitions behind the research, to provide insight for policy and actions. Others have been developing methods of needs analysis that will provide the granularity needed. It is a sophistication made practical that is needed.
The Ofsted data does not allow any analysis and therefore insight into the behaviour emotional regulation, relationships, risk, or psychological well-being of young people.
- It cannot give any indication of the frequency and difficulty of the needs of the children or the challenge in caring for them.
- It cannot give the analysis of the co-existence of needs that go to make the complexity of children’s homes caring today.
Only knowing the granularity of need in the everyday life of a child starts to see behind the broad categories of neglect and abuse, to recognise the effects and the personal tragedy.
What the Ofsted report makes obvious a new dataset is needed, an observation made by many. The need for meaningful datasets has been made repeatedly by many researchers.
Specificity based in a needs analysis is required, time to move beyond Sufficiency
The current dataset is captured within the restrictive concept of Sufficiency, this lacks detail and is often only descriptive and it leads to procurement from what is available.
A new concept of Specificity is needed, with granularity of data comes the creativity of commissioning and planning to meet need.
It is only through a needs analysis method that we get to the ‘right child in the right place at the right time.’ The sophistication needed makes for enhanced assessment supporting effective matching of needs to home, and efficient spending.
This report shows that this move is now urgent.
Having been working on this very aspect during 2022 NCERCC has the outcomes that show how working with a needs analysis makes for a very different picture of the provision needed. It fills in the gaps that a market-oriented method delivers.
It is only with a needs analysis approach that Ofsted could start to grapple with what their limiting categories can offer to researchers. The Ofsted report acknowledges its weaknesses but not the remedy, knowing needs allows the admissions, the care planning meeting the need, and the workforce development and practice of the home as in the Statement of Purpose of the home, to be interrogated.
It is frustrating to have the same exercise year on year repeated year on year. It is not taking the sector forwards. Progress will be made if the government and its agencies make use of the expertise that exists and has been offered. Following the first report in this series NCERCC made the offer of supporting this report through bringing its knowledge to the research or peer reviewing the drafts. Whilst this is a factor in Ofsted judgments regarding the quality of care, because the inspection methodology is interpretative and individual to each inspector, this information is not designed to be helpful for a research purpose either.
There is a need for interrogating what happens ‘further upstream’ as the Care Review termed it, to look at social work assessment, placement request forms, often both underestimate the level of need, and the care received by prior fostering placements.
Distance – psychological and geographical – local, regional, national: as local as possible and as specialised as necessary, can only be determined with granularity of need.
It is only with such granularity that the analysis of distance can be meaningfully made. NCERCC has undertaken research reviews of distance. This will be addressed again elsewhere, there is the need to appreciate the psychology of distance in terms of safety and security, emotional wellbeing, sometimes being near can be too close psychologically. There are comparisons made in the report of distance of fostering and children’s homes from the home area. Increased need in every aspect requires a consideration where best to be located. Locally, regionally, and nationally, as local as possible and as specialised as necessary, can only be determined with granularity of need. Again and again this report makes the case that a new thinking and practice is required.
There are four easily resolved gripes with the research
- The acceptance of the idea of generic admissions, children’s homes accepting a wider range of needs, is a very concerning aspect to the report. This cannot lead to the best possible outcomes as needs and practice are compromised.
- Another worrying statistic is that occupancy is 70%. If correct this is at a worryingly low unviable level. It needs urgent research and triangulating with other sector surveys.
- The Therapeutic Child Care ‘definition’ given is not that of the International Working Group, or The Consortium of Therapeutic Communities, or the Royal College of Psychiatrists Community of Communities. Though the author of the ‘definition’ is highly regarded these other organisations have applied a research base to their definitions and are the obvious references for a research report.
- The word ‘unit’ appears as a description of homes. As the author of the definition of Therapeutic Child Care used wrote in another article, ‘A unit ain’t a home.’ The word unit needs not to be used when describing any home of a child and indeed it is outside of the Quality Standards to do so, each home should be ‘non-institutional’ and ‘homely.’
There is a new and major finding.
The report identifies that there are very few homes for boys recovering from CSE/CSA whilst they exist for girls.
NCERCC will undertake a more detailed analysis at a later date if necessary