I write on behalf of the Independent Children’s Homes Association, whose members include local authorities, charities and for-profit providers, in response to your report (Serious incidents more common in for-profit children’s homes in England, 28 June). Demand for children’s home placements is significantly outstripping available capacity, and two critical issues are preventing the development of additional capacity.
The first issue is the lack of suitable staff. The registration of new children’s homes to meet the placement needs of local authorities is a relatively straightforward process for providers. However, they cannot – and should not – do so without appropriately skilled and qualified staff. The second issue is the irrational focus on regulatory processes such as notifications – issues that must be reported to Ofsted. These are normal, important, day-to-day safeguarding processes in children’s social care, and do not automatically indicate a problem with the care being provided.
The reality is that the larger residential childcare providers offer a disproportionate number of services for children and young people with the highest needs and risk profile, for whom local authorities are unable to provide suitable care. These children and young people do have higher rates of incidents that require notifications. So, it is to be expected that the largest providers have higher rates of notifications.
The recent media focus on children’s homes is unintentionally compounding these issues and discouraging providers of residential care from opening much-needed additional homes. The constantly negative framing of children’s homes is affecting recruitment efforts.
The result of this is that children and young people cannot be placed in homes that provide the specialist services they so desperately need. Instead, local authorities are forced to place them in unregulated provision.
Chief executive officer, ICHA