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Our Response to an Independent Review of Children’s Residential Child Care

Sir Martin Narey’s independent review of children’s residential care in England published this week supports the recent OFSTED REPORT that shows children’s homes are overwhelmingly giving young people good and outstanding care.

We are delighted this independent review – headed up by Sir Martin Narey, former Head of the Prison and Probation Services in England and Wales and CEO of children’s charity Barnardo’s – will support children who need to be in residential care, and guide government towards achieving the very best for every single child.

We heard Martin Narey address Commissioners at the recent National Commissioning and Contracting Training Conference. During his talk, Martin made several statements in defence of residential care, saying;

”All the research is very clear that if you compare children who are removed from neglect with those who are left in what is sometimes termed “managed neglect”,  care makes things better. It does not mean it can’t be better still and it needs to be, but the suggestion that residential care somehow propels children into a life of unhappiness or failure is grossly unfair“

He also bemoaned the level of awareness of the facts among government policy makers and influencers:

“The number of politicians, select committees and ministers I have met, the number of All Party Parliamentary Groups that have been quite shocked by my reminding them for many years that the research has been unequivocal;  care generally can be much improved, but care makes things better.”

Now this report is out, we need to put a stop to thinking about residential care being a service of last resort. We need to listen to those children who have had a bad experience in a family who they say the don’t want to be in a family –  and why would they want another one? That has got to be heard.
Of course residential care should not be a lifelong thing – it should be with a purpose in mind – and clearly that will be about moving on towards a productive adult life. The challenge for the sector is – how do you make that residential provision affordable and sustainable?

At Five Rivers we are developing a teamwork approach that involves young people and saves money. We work as co-designers and co-producers of new services for young people  so they, in effect, become part of the staff team in a ‘big brother, big sister’ approach – helping us manage staff costs. This is done in partnership with housing associations to provide places that young people can move into at age 16 which they don’t have to move out of until they are over 25. This makes them part of  a genuine, supportive community – something like ‘student halls accommodation plus plus’.

These ideas have arisen at the right time and should move into the foreground of commissioners’ minds. Afterall, commissioners are being given the ‘power to innovate’ –  to be far better at the task of commissioning – to be aware of the need for market sustainability and development.  That means not driving services out of business – not about a race to the bottom in terms of the cheapest but about working supportively and in partnership with forward-thinking residential care providers who are evolving new and creative solutions.

Don’t get me wrong.  People need to be looking at the whole life-time of the service from A to Z : From what happens around a child coming into care and how can you prevent that, to  how you can work intensively to get them back home again where that is appropriate.  But if the right solution for them is residential care,  then accept that and monitor the outcome,  asking, ‘What happens when they leave? What will be there for them?’

We are delighted that the education secretary Nicky Morgan acknowledged this in her supporting speech to Parliament, saying,  “This important report makes clear that young people leaving residential care need more support. I wholeheartedly agree.”

Independent report
Children’s residential care in England From:
Department for Education First published: 4 July 2016 Sir Martin Narey’s independent review of children’s residential care in England.

Please also refer to OFSTED First published: 28 June 2016: Part of: Ofsted annual reports: The third annual report on the state of children’s social care in England.

Summary for Children:

Nicky Morgan’s speech to Parliament 4 July

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