Concerns have been raised about the government's proposals to introduce professional regulation for care staff in childrens homes: in its response to the Department for Education's call for evidence on the childrens homes workforce, the Association of Directors of Childrens Services said that if professional registration is introduced, it may require re-registration of staff on a periodic basis and this could be "resource intensive and have financial implications".
"The costs associated with a requirement for children’s homes staff to be registered will likely be passed onto the local authority. At a time when the cost of placing a child or young person in an independent childrens homes is very high, ADCS is concerned that additional costs incurred by local authorities will place extra pressure on already heavily reduced budgets," said the report.
The consultation was launched in response to a recommendation made by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA).
The ADCS explains that staff working in childrens homes must currently undertake a mandatory Level 3 Diploma for Residential Care within two years of employment. However, due to high levels of staff turnover, few staff are able to complete the qualification within the required two year period resulting in a number of staff who have not yet achieved the qualification.
Managers of residential homes must be registered with Ofsted and achieve a Level 5 Diploma in Leadership and Management for Residential Care within three years of employment and this role is also impacted by a high turnover of staff. Childrens homes are inspected by Ofsted, however, there is no developed professional standard for care staff in children’s homes.
Registration of managers and care staff, if underpinned with a code of practice and professional standards, would enable greater consistency across the workforce, said the ADCS, however, their response says this would need to be implemented in a way that does not duplicate the assessment of fitness to practice in order to limit potential costs.
ADCS urges the government to consider the recommendation’s impact on the recruitment and retention of care staff if professional registration were introduced. The Association stresses that it is important that childrens homes have a rich diversity of care staff and there is a risk that this proposal may have an adverse impact on recruitment if not carefully considered.
However, if mandatory registration is introduced, this should encourage childrens homes to concentrate on CPD that is more practical and specifically focuses on supporting children and young people, the response adds.
The ADCS highlights that currently social work, health and psychological are regulated by the Health and Care Professions Council, although there are plans afoot for social workers to be regulated by Social Work England later this year.
The HCPC will only regulate a new profession when there is a compelling case to do so. ADCS warns that "registration with a new independent body would be disproportionately costly due to the relatively small number of care staff in childrens homes".
"ADCS therefore believes that if registration is deemed necessary, registration with the HCPC should be considered," says the response.
The Association states that the current Quality Standards within the Childrens Homes Regulations set out the outcomes that each child or young person must be supported to achieve while living in a childrens home. It suggests that in order to improve the number of qualified staff, a new Quality Standard could be introduced that requires childrens homes to outline in their statement of purpose the number of staff that have achieved their mandatory qualification and how many are working towards this.
ADCS also urges the DfE to also consider the capacity, training and developmental needs of other parts of the wider children’s workforce. ADCS recently published a position paper Building a workforce that works for all children and recommended the DfE develop a coherent workforce strategy to address capacity issues and ensure that adequate and up to date training is readily available for the whole children’s workforce. Many parts of the wider workforce that do vital work with children and families have suffered due to cuts to local authority budgets and these should receive equal focus, the response adds.
"ADCS believes the DfE should review training that is currently provided by children’s homes so that the knowledge learned from this can be used to create a more flexible training requirement for staff. Given the wide variety of children’s homes in operation, this should be developed with the sector and provide a level of flexibility that meets the specific needs of the type of children’s home and its statement of purpose," the Association's response concludes.