Response to The Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel report
Response to The Child Safeguarding Practice Review panel report
As the membership body for children’s homes in England and Wales, we are devastated to learn of the abuse that has been found to have occurred in the three homes operated by the Hesley Group. The central mission of The Children’s Homes Association (CHA) is to support our members to provide exemplary childcare. Hesley Group are not members of CHA.
We welcome the recommendations in the report and the government’s commitment to actions that will improve safeguarding of children and young people. We are disappointed that there is only a commitment to hold private providers to account, potentially leaving children and young people in local authority and third sector homes with lower levels of protection.
We echo concerns about the lack of joined-up working between residential homes and schools. Our members regularly highlight that there are challenges in maintaining communication due to the acute pressures that exist within schools. This raises the question as to whether schools have sufficient funding to engage in closer partnership working with residential homes. Similarly, commitment to residential placements from health at a commissioning level is patchy, despite health needs often being the key reason a residential placement is needed, which leaves underfunded children’s social care departments with the resource and financial responsibility.
The CHA regularly meets with Ofsted to ensure challenges, concerns and best practice are communicated in a timely way, from and to the sector. Ofsted provides extensive support and guidance to the residential sector, and much has improved since the abhorrent failures highlighted in the panel report. A key area is significant improvement in protocols between residential settings and LADO.
The report highlighted workforce challenges in residential settings. CHA are working with the National Association of Special Schools (NASS) and wider stakeholders to address these challenges. The government must recognise that to achieve exemplary childcare across the sector will require working with the sector, as well as investing in the workforce. We have been working for the last 12 months on short and long-term sector-led solutions with this aim.
There are clear failings identified in the report by local authorities and the regulator. But it must be acknowledged that both are currently woefully underfunded, arguably stripped to the bone. With such financial pressures, it is inevitable that things will go wrong. We are extremely concerned that both local authorities and the regulator are continuously expected to carry out additional duties, and meet the needs of more children, but do not receive adequate funding to do so. This report should be a wakeup call for government and urgent funding increases should be made.
Whilst the government has provided additional funding to local authorities to open new homes, this funding is wasted unless the acute staff shortages are addressed. We have repeatedly requested that the government commits to supporting children’s residential care in the same way it has for adult social care. It is of note that adult social care has received over £1 billion to address the workforce issues, but children’s residential care to date has received no financial support, nor other requested solutions such as visas for international staff.
The report highlighted that a significant number of children were placed a long way from their home areas. Currently multiple areas across England have insufficient residential settings. Lack of workforce is a barrier to new homes opening to ensure all local authorities can meet their sufficiency duties, and the workforce crisis must be addressed.
We hope that this report demonstrates that this is not the time to accept recommendations from the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care to remove the role of the Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO), which is a vital protective role for children living in residential settings.
For more information please contact:
Peter Sandiford (CEO) – firstname.lastname@example.org (07597 982 533)
Dr Mark Kerr (Deputy CEO) – email@example.com (07539 411 591)
ABOUT The Children’s Homes Association (formerly ICHA)
The Children’s Homes Association (formerly The Independent Children’s Homes Association) www.the-cha.org.uk is the voice of providers of residential child care services and resources across England and Wales. We are a Not-for-Profit Limited Company. The Children’s Homes Association represents both large and small providers with membership drawn from the public, private and voluntary sectors. Some members have just one home whilst others have many homes across a wide geographic area.
WHAT WE DO
We provide knowledge, expert guidance, resources and day-to-day support to our members as we work together to deliver exemplary residential child care.
We work directly with local and national government, regulators and allied public services, consulting on policy and changes within the sector. We ensure that the voices of our members are heard, through consultations, government responses and liaison with the media.
We actively develop partnerships, collaborations and professional communities to share best practice – for the benefit of our members, the sector and all those cared for within it. Our leadership and associates bring together vast expertise across the many aspects of providing and managing residential child care, with a fearlessly child-centred approach.
Exemplary residential child care.
Drive excellence in residential child care through innovation, collaboration and sector leadership.