Sir Martin Narey has published the findings of his independent review of children's residential services in a report called Residential Care in England.
Sir Martin was commissioned by the Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Education last October to look at the role of residential care with the wider care system and make recommendations for improving the outcomes in residential care.
In his report he talks about how to secure best value for money in commissioning residential care and looks at the differences between local authority, private and voluntary sector run homes. The report also looks at residential care as a route to fostering and the lack of market management in the way provision meets need.
One of the most prevalent themes noted by Sir Martin was that children and young people in residential care often have the most complex needs and require support on a range of issues.
According to the report 53% of children living in children’s homes have a statement of special educational needs or an Educational, Health and Care plan, and a further 28% have identified special educational needs without statements or EHC plans. This compares to 20% and 34% for all looked after children respectively. Furthermore, about 62% had clinically significant mental health difficulties; and, 74% were reported to have been violent or aggressive in the past six months.
Those involved in contributing to the review, including CDC Director, Christine Lenehan, called for more specialist support to be provided to ensure equality of support in fostering and residential care.
However, it was disappointing to note that the report did not include further review or analysis of children in long-term residential care particularly in light of the comments made by NHS England CAMHS Learning Disability Project. They discussed their work around implementing the Transforming Care agenda for children and young people with learning disabilities and or autism. They concluded that despite Visits to Children in Long-Term Residential Care Regulations 2011 there is no clear evidence to confirm all of these children are regularly and appropriately visited and monitored.
Anna Feuchtwang, CEO of National Children's Bureau said:
“Sir Martin Narey’s wide-ranging and refreshingly positive review of residential care should ensure that once and for all children’s homes are given the status they deserve and never used as a last resort for children who have experienced numerous foster placements.
“Residential care is the best option for many children and if the government takes forward the review’s recommendations it can even be even further improved. It is particularly vital that the proposals for ‘Staying Close’ are quickly followed through and that crime reporting procedures for children’s homes are made the same as in schools so that children are no longer needlessly criminalised.
“The Department for Education now needs to give the same scrutiny it has applied to residential care and adoption, to fostering, which is long overdue.
We remain concerned that the review did not report on the needs of disabled children who live away from home, who are amongst the most vulnerable children in residential care, and urge the government to conduct an independent assessment of current provision.”
Anna Feuchtwang, CEO of the National Children's Bureau