Prince Charles wrote a piece today in The Guardian, ‘Small farms have a huge role to play in our sustainable future’
Acting on his prompting, adopting his viewpoint, and using some of his words NCERCC has some thoughts on ‘Small providers have a huge role to play in our sustainable future for Residential Child Care.
Small children’s homes providers, whether for local authority, private of voluntary organisations, form the backbone of English Residential Child Care provision. Their hard work provides high-quality care; as inspected and reported by Ofsted and produced to some of the highest standards in the world through the Quality Standards for Children’s Homes. They are part of the social work/care stewardship that creates a social fabric of care. We need early intervention and complex high level needs provision; they are inextricably connected. Being as local as possible and as specialist as necessary is key.
They are a remarkable set of people; adaptable, resilient, and incredibly hardworking. And they are no stranger to innovation as it has always been the case that Residential Child Care is innovating, creativity is its vital lifeblood. Just as there are a diverse range of needs of children have a diversity so is there is diversity to meet those needs. Each children’s home is unique. Children’s homes bring great strengths to our communities.
It is vital that this is taken into account in the light of a Care Review considering the future of social work/care.
It is essential the contribution of the small-scale Residential Child Care providers is properly recognised. The focus now, in the media, in the Care Review, by social work directors and others, is almost completely on large private equity providers. Yet recent registrations show small providers opening more than large providers. It must be loudly stated that small providers must be a key part in any fair, inclusive, equitable and just transition to a sustainable social work/care future. To do this, we must ensure that Residential Child Care practitioners, the ones doing the caring, have the tools and the confidence to meet the needs now and in the future, we have seen they have become ever more complex.
It is worth remembering that most of the homes of small providers are run by a few key people. Unlike the larger providers, they often don’t have the time or the resources ready to hand and need to make time to seek out the resources. This group are face all the same demands and stresses as the larger providers. They need support to the same ready access to resources to the same degree as large providers. It is not solely a question of providing places but of providing the wherewithal necessary to provide those places. Sustainability is not just for climate but for our social work/care climate too.
Small providers are the biggest group, there is strength in numbers if they can be brought together and not kept apart as competitors. The best way to secure a viable future for the smaller providers would be for them to come together in some sort of federation, and for practitioners to create a Residential Child Care Workers professional association, and combined through a Charter for Residential Child Care. The representative provider organisations increasingly are captured by the agenda of large providers. The need and views of small providers need to be represented. The needs of practitioners need to be represented too. The new times require new thinking and new forms of representation.
It is small providers and individual practitioners that need to be better connected and cooperatively developing relationship based Residential Child Care.
We need to ensure the skills of ethical entrepreneurs be they local state, private or charitable, and the expertise of skilled practitioners. A real and hopeful future for a sector comes through the deliberate development of a secure base for the work in order to provide a secure base for the children. It is this that should be the focus of our discussions and work – to what degree are we providing a secure base for carers and children? The future of social work/care depends on how we answer that question.