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What Is The Role And Task Of Residential Child Care(s) Today?

What is the role and task of Residential Child Care(s) today?

This question is implicit in the Ofsted report: How local authorities and children’s homes can achieve stability and permanence for children with complex needs

It is a question that needs to be explored tenaciously as the document seeks positive change by local authorities, commissioners, providers and practitioners.

It asserts specificity not only sufficiency is essential in the development of the homes needed today, and especially for higher level needs.

This document being acted upon is a starting point for regenerating Residential Child Care (RCC) more generally, and with regard to higher level needs specifically.

The report opens areas for debate that have not been discussed for a considerable time.

A foundational subject for discussion and development is ‘What is the role and task for Residential Child Care today?’

The thinking about RCC almost uniformly takes the view of needing more places. As the Ofsted paragraph above observes it is not only sufficiency that is needed but specificity.

There is no such thing as Residential Child Care singular, only Residential Child Care as a plurality. The following diagram shows the plurality:

Even a summary of needs in RCC begins to show the specificity required

  • Children with relatively simple or straightforward needs who require either short-term or relatively ‘ordinary’ substitute care
  • Children or families with deep rooted, complex, or chronic needs with a long history of difficulty and disruption, including abuse or neglect requiring more than simply a substitute family
  • Children with extensive, complex, and enduring needs compounded by very difficult behaviour who require more specialised and intensive resources such as a therapeutic community, an adolescent mental health unit, a small ‘intensive care’ residential setting or a secure unit.


You get positive Residential Child Care in positive children’s services.

The report intimates the need for developing practice in children’s services social work in its remarks on social work assessment.

Further clarity about the role of children’s services is necessary.

This provides the context for the role and task of RCC. It is not possible to discuss the future of RCC unless it is part of the wider discussion of the future of children’s services.  The Care Review was a proposal that needed greater consideration rather than the welcoming and now rapid move to implementation.


This report is a good evaluation of the current situation. NCERCC writes more on the following

  • Co-occurring needs is a better umbrella term than Complex
  • The need for personal and professional development
  • Assessment is an essential social work task
  • The Planning and Preparing for a placement section is a treasure trove of good practice ideas.
  • Stickability matters – seeing beyond, beneath and behind the behaviour
  • Schools and learning – more needed on emotional growth and learning and obstacles – could be more explanatory of the effects of neglect, trauma and attachment profile on the ability to engage in any learning.
  • Helping children to access mental health and wider health services – addressing health and social care differences in conceptualisation of need and thereby thresholds and practice, and even language
  • Working with the Police – potentially a big learning programme needed for the Police colleagues – trauma informed policing is needed to be addressed

The content of the report brings a big question: Is this the return to the Improvement function of the regulator inspectorate? It is to be hoped.

Previous regulators (NCSC and CSCI) and Ofsted in its early time with children’s social care has ‘an improvement function’, that is inspectors could advise providers on good practice. As accountability and regulatory aspects rose the improvement function was explicitly dropped.

In the absence of a national good practice network Ofsted are the only source of such advice and linking across settings.

If advice could be given at the moment of inspection this would be excellent.  If it is only, for the moment, in Ofsted research reports then let this report be seen as a welcomed foundation to be built upon.

Read the report here:
NCERCC evaluation and response – Ofsted How local authorities and children’s homes can achieve stability and permanence for children with complex need 17 02 24[56]