Martin Narey publishes an independent review of children’s residential care
The role of residential care is misunderstood, Martin Narey has concluded in his independent review into the use of residential care.
“I think the role of children’s homes is misunderstood, the challenge of the children they care for underestimated, and the contribution they make too easily dismissed,” said Narey’s review.
While the dramatic shift from the use of residential care towards fostering should be welcomed and there may be scope for moving some children, who have previously not succeeded in fostering, from residential care and into a different sort of foster care.
But there is a very real and unmet demand for the greater use of children’s homes as part of an initial assessment for older children when first coming into care, and for those on the edge of care, Narey said.
“So I see very little scope for reducing our reliance on children’s homes and I am quite clear that to do so would not be in the interests of children,” he added.
The prime minister David Cameron commissioned Narey to review residential care for children in October last year “to we can take every possible step to make sure these children get the best start in life”.
Residential care accounts for 12% of all care placements in England. There were 8,320 children in residential care from a care population of 69,540 in March 2015 Of these, 5290 lived in children’s homes, 180 lived in secure units, 1100 lived in hostels (generally as part of the process of leaving care), 1080 lived in other residential settings (including care by the NHS, mother and baby units and custody) and 670 lived in residential schools.
Narey’s review found:
“Children’s homes are seen by many social work professionals, including many senior managers, as places of last resort: perhaps somewhere to park children temporarily, until a crisis has passed,” said Narey.
“For a greater number of managers, homes are seen as an anachronism, and relatively little investment has gone into developing best practice within them. And there has been a signal failure to obtain reasonable value for money when using them,” he added.
However, Narey says that it is not to say that children’s homes cannot be improved and improvement would happen more quickly if the government created a Residential Care Leadership Board comprising academics, providers from local authorities, the voluntary and the private sector; commissioners and other experts and reporting to the minister for Children.
The body would lead work on improving commissioning and obtaining better value for comey for local authorities, advise ministers on the role and demand of residential care, reduce unnecessary criminalisation and keep children safe. The Board would also advise on how best to implement ‘Staying Close’ and would “remove much of the suspicion and mistrust in the residential care world, improve best practice, and bring greater clarity and coherence to this much misunderstood and grossly under appreciated part of children’s social care”.
Other recommendations include:
Martin Narey concluded by urging the government to commit to introducing the Staying Close scheme for children leaving care.
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