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Children’s organisations welcome Narey report into residential children’s homes

Government to pilot Staying Close scheme

Organisations supporting children have welcomed Sir Martin Narey's independent review of children's residential care. 

Last year the Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Education asked Sir Martin Narey to review children's residential care in England. His report examines the role of residential care within the wider care system and recommends how to improve the outcomes of children in residential care. The report is here.

As recommended by the report, the government plans to pilot a new scheme – Staying close –  allowing young people leaving children's homes to live nearby and retain links with those people who have cared for them.

The Association of Directors of Children's Services responded:

"We welcome Sir Martin's thoughtful report, in which he recognises the generally good quality of care provided by many children's homes across the country and some of the outstanding practice he has seen whilst undertaking his independent review. Many of Sir Martin's recommendations have the potential to improve outcomes and achieve change for this cohort of vulnerable children; the development of Staying Close, focused on building independence for young people leaving care, is the right thing to do but this will need to be adequately funded by government. And I am sure the sector would be interested to adopt systems that provide the opportunity for more intelligent commissioning of placements.

"The recognition of the need to improve the status of the children's residential sector and of the professionals working in this field is welcome and long overdue, as is the need for a fundamental review of foster care. Residential care is a subject which has been considered at length several times over recent years, but little action has been taken to act on the recommendations of reviews and research to date. We hope these recommendations will result in meaningful change and positively impact on the lives of children in care."

The British Association of Social Workers England commented:

"To change the perception of residential care, we need to improve its status and elevate it both as a career choice and as positive choice for many children. Without detracting from the excellent work being done by non-social work staff, we appreciate Sir Martin Narey's recognition of the need for qualified social workers to play an integral part of the residential care workforce. However, the report limits this to managers, whereas we would like to see this extended to a number of staff in non-managerial roles. The idea supported by BASW England to consider a degree qualification such as that available in Scotland has been rejected, with suggestions of staff needing caring qualities over academic abilities, an opposing view to that presented for child and family social workers by the Chief Social Worker. The report suggests recommendations to decrease the criminalisation of children; increase staff confidence in setting boundaries for children and the use of restraint. If taken through a formal qualification such as the Scottish degree, and provided with the knowledge of international theories and training in skills and methods, the staff may well be able to use alternative methods to avoid such situations.

"Social workers play an important role in the lives of all Looked After Children and we need to enhance care planning by social workers, who need to be given the time and training to do it. Employers have a duty of care to provide support for staff and we are surprised this has not been mentioned in the report. So too should staff's views about the best interests of the child be respected. If a manager is a qualified social worker and is supported by a trained and skilled team with significant knowledge of all the other residents, their decisions based around the child should be accepted and not overruled by the owner. We agree with the recommendation that students undergoing social work training should have a placement within a children's residential home. Commissioners also need enhanced training and they too should preferably be social work qualified."

The Children's Commissioner for England stated:

"I welcome the recognition that many children living in children's residential care see it as a positive experience and the best choice for them. Children's preferences, views and wishes need to be taken into account at all times when important decisions about their care are being taken, including where they will live. No child is the same and no residential children's home is the same but the best homes will be supportive environments with caring staff that can provide children with a sense of commitment and belonging which may have been previously absent in their lives. The individual circumstances of young people and the wide range of experiences that lead to children entering care mean there should not be a one fits all solution and we need a range of options that best meet their needs. 

"Smaller children's homes with lower ratios of children to staff lend themselves to nurturing, supportive and caring environments, which feel like family homes and less like institutions. Changes to where they live can be extremely disruptive to children's lives and we need to overall reduce the rate at which this happens to children in care. I am investigating this issue as part of our ongoing work. The recommendations for the commissioning of children's home places could improve the effectiveness of the way local authorities acquire these vital services and have the potential to increase the long-term supply of the kind of homes children want and need.

"Young people who have been in care can face a range of disadvantages and may struggle to find places in education, training or employment so it is vital there is continued support. Care leavers may currently have a sense of having to cope alone when they leave residential children's homes, so the provision of continuing help and good advice as they move on in life would be a hugely positive step."

The report is here.