Govt publishes response to national review of safeguarding for disabled children and children with complex needs living in residential settings

The Government has published its response to a report by the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel that set out recommendations for systemic reform following the abuse of more than a hundred children and young adults living in three residential settings operated by the Hesley Group.  The Panel commissioned the Director of the Council for Disabled Children (part of the National Children’s Bureau) as the lead reviewer for this work, supported by an expert team. 

In April 2023, the Panel published the Phase 2 report  of its national review of safeguarding for disabled children and children with complex health needs living in residential settings. The report set out far-reaching recommendations for central and local government and other agencies, proposing wide-ranging changes to policy and practice to improve the safety, support, and outcomes for disabled children with complex health needs in residential care.

The Government response published today sets out the steps that Government are taking to address the failings identified by the review’s report and its views on the Panel’s recommendations.

The response states that the events in these homes bring into even sharper focus the importance of reforms in the SEND and alternative provision improvement plan, the Government’s strategy for children’s social care, Stable Homes, Built on Love, and in NHS England’s long-term plan to improve the lives of disabled children.

The actions identified in the response include:

  • Asking Ofsted and Care Quality Commission (CQC) to work with them to consider what could be done better and differently now to safeguard disabled children living in regulated children’s homes. Government is asking Ofsted and CQC to work with them to review the recommendation for joint inspections, including any regulatory changes required and cost implications.
  • Setting a new standard on the provision of non-instructed advocacy for children with complex communication needs. Strengthening the independence of advocacy services and improving the way these services are promoted so that advocacy support is more available to children and young people.
  • Exploring proposals for introducing professional registration of the children’s homes workforce, as well as considering the development of a new Knowledge and Skills Statement and a national leadership programme to support recruitment of new managers.
  • Rolling out two Regional Care Co-operatives, bringing together local authorities with regional health and youth justice partners to improve how care places are provided and commissioned for children looked after. Regional Care Co-operatives will be trialled in two pathfinder areas.
  • Considering how information sharing, multi-agency leadership, safeguarding partnerships and cross-government working can be improved to support safeguarding.
  • Committing to work with local authorities and Ofsted to review what changes need to be made to the responsibilities of Local Authority Designated Officers (LADO).
  • Asking the Law Commission to carry out a review of the legislation for disabled children, to inform future changes to legislation and/or guidance.
  • Updated statutory guidance Working Together to Safeguard Children to set out clear roles and responsibilities for safeguarding partners (police, health, and local authorities) to ensure they work more effectively together.

“The disturbing catalogue of abuse and harm that triggered this review, must never be repeated. So, we welcome the Government’s acceptance of the overwhelming majority of the recommendations set out by the national review. While these reforms will require careful development and implementation, we must also move forward with urgency so that this most vulnerable group of children and young adults are assured the safety and support they deserve. We will be eager to see what concrete progress has been made at the six-month review point.”

Amanda Allard

Director of the Council for Disabled Children and Director of Practice and Programmes at the National Children’s Bureau

If you are a parent or carer who suspects or knows there has been abuse of a child or young person with learning disabilities, then we have produced a factsheet detailing how to safeguard them and access support.

Find out more here