“In fact, the most recent Ofsted data demonstrate the progress that has been made”

CHA response to research published by Oxford University

Response to Oxford University research publication

As the membership body for children’s homes in England and Wales, with a diverse membership of public, private and voluntary providers, The Children’s Homes Association (CHA) welcomes high quality research in the sector. Research into children’s residential care has long been neglected and the CHA is convening a research group to address this, as a key element of working to achieve our members’ vision for exemplary residential child care across the sector.

The article Outsourcing and children’s social care: A longitudinal analysis of inspection outcomes among English children’s homes and local authorities has been published at a time of significant public discourse on who provides children’s social care services, and it is right that debate is based on evidence.  We are currently reviewing the analysis, particularly the assumptions and data treatment decisions that were made in the analysis, to inform learning across the sector.

As acknowledged by the authors, there are limitations to how the results of this analysis of Ofsted judgements can be generalised to the sector today, and the paper therefore cannot be taken as an accurate representation of the current state of the sector. A critical factor is that, due to limitations of Ofsted data, it is not possible for such analysis to take into account whether the judgements considered are of like-for-like organisations or services, or the varying level of need or risk of children and young people cared for in the homes.

We strongly challenge the intimation that outsourced providers ‘cream’ or ‘cherry pick’ the children they care for, and the research provides no evidence to support this notion, which we would argue strays into polemic debate. It is our opinion that it is in fact the children with the highest levels of need and risk that are cared for in the independent sector.

The article also highlights other areas in which the sector must improve, particularly commissioning and sufficiency. There is a wider message to be taken from the findings of this research: The sector must work better together to share learning on best practice. 

The CHA has a significant focus on breaking down silos and improving partnership working across children’s social care.  We are currently working with 25 local authorities across the country to improve partnership working between all providers in the sector. These projects offer significant opportunity to improve the quality of children’s residential care and most importantly outcomes for children and young people.

This research provides valuable contribution to our understanding of inspection judgments of children’s homes historically.  But we believe we must focus on the quality of the children’s residential care today and our aspirations for the future.  The most recent Ofsted data demonstrate the progress that has been made by the independent sector in improving quality, a point that the research paper in question fails to acknowledge.   

It is a matter of individual choice which ratings are considered for comparison e.g. proportion of homes rated as Good / Outstanding or proportion rated as Requires Improvement / Inadequate. But the most recent data show that all forms of provision can improve. The CHA are working hard to support the whole sector to do so.

Source: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/local-authority-and-childrens-homes-in-england-inspections-and-outcomes-autumn-2021/main-findings-local-authority-and-childrens-homes-in-england-inspections-and-outcomes-autumn-2021