The report of Sir Martin Narey’s independent review of children’s residential care in England July 2016 makes new recommendations for Ofsted Inspections to reduce children’s home inspections and for clarity from Ofsted on a range of provider concerns. Read the full list of recommendations below,
List of Recommendations
Chapter One: Obtaining better value for money in the commissioning of children’s homes
Recommendation 1: An early priority for the Department for Education must be to facilitate the improvement of local and regional commissioning skills. Simultaneously, DfE must require local authorities to come together into large consortia for the purpose of obtaining significant discounts from private and voluntary sector providers.
Recommendation 2: I recommend that the Department for Education urge local authorities and consortia, and all providers, to subscribe to Link Maker.
Recommendation 3: I suggest that the Innovation Programme at the Department for Education might be used to ease entry to the English market for new or expanding voluntary sector providers.
Recommendation 4: I recommend that providers examine their staff attendance systems to ensure they are as effective as possible in meeting the needs of children. And commissioners, when placing children, should look closely at the numbers of staff on duty at key times of the day.
Chapter Two: Fostering, closeness to home, the size of homes and secure care
Recommendation 5: Assuming the evaluation of No Wrong Door is as positive as I would expect, the Department for Education should encourage other local authorities to study the hub approach and the potential for this to help children into foster care.
Recommendation 6: We must ensure we are recruiting and retaining the best possible foster carers, and with a sufficient number able to care for the most challenging children. And we need to pay foster carers well: their contribution is often heroic. But we have to ensure that the charges that local authorities pay providers are not unnecessarily inflated. Fostering is overdue a fundamental review and this should be a priority for the Department for Education.
Recommendation 7: I urge local authorities and consortia to be cautious about following any hard and fast rule about placement distance and to recognise that the right placement for a child is more important than location. They should no longer impose geographical restrictions on where homes must be located in order to be included in contracts.
Recommendation 8: I recommend that local planning authorities should review their Local Plans to include a clear statement of housing need for children in children’s homes so providers understand whether or not additional homes are required.
Recommendation 9: Commissioners should not purchase beds in smaller homes because of an assumption that they are likely to be more effective. The evidence does not support that assumption and Ofsted have made it clear that they do not have a preference for smaller homes.
Recommendation 10: The Department for Education, in liaison with the Department of Communities and Local Government, needs to examine the extent to which the current interpretation of planning law is leading to a proliferation of newer smaller homes, which will certainly be more expensive to commissioners, but which are not likely to be any more effective than slightly larger units. At the same time the Department should assess whether differences in the interpretation of material between planning authorities is distorting the location of new homes.
Recommendation 11: The Department for Education needs either to ensure local authorities come together to drive down the cost of secure placements to about that achieved by the YJB, or to commission secure welfare beds from the centre alongside the YJB.
Recommendation 12: Simultaneously, the Department needs to lead a debate with the sector about the role and purpose of secure accommodation and what it can achieve, in keeping exceptionally challenging children safe, and in protecting others.
Recommendation 13: The Department for Education need to consider how they might encourage alternative providers from the voluntary and private sector to enter the secure care market.
Recommendation 14: The extent of the use of single placements for children (including an assessment of the cost and effectiveness of such arrangements) as an alternative to using secure beds needs to be investigated by DfE.
Chapter Three: The criminalising of children; staff confidence; setting boundaries for children; and the use of restraint
Recommendation 15: The Department for Education and the Home Office should urge police services and local authorities to replicate the south-east protocol, or to agree similar arrangements. And, where they are not already doing so, to apply a restorative justice approach in dealing with children’s unacceptable behaviour.
Recommendation 16: The Department for Education, in consultation with Ofsted, needs to reconsider their guidance – taking account of recent Court judgements – to ensure that staff are able to keep children safe by preventing them leaving homes at time of danger, either by locking doors or using restraint, and that they can be confident in the legality of their doing so.
Recommendation 17: The Home Office counting rules – quite properly designed so that crime is not under recorded – allow the police very little flexibility in dealing with crimes committed in homes. This is in contrast to schools where police discretion exists and is frequently used. I recommend that the Home Office should allow police forces similar discretion not to record all low-level crime by children living in homes.
Chapter Four: Ofsted
Recommendation 18: I urge Ofsted to introduce arrangements which will mean that, save in exceptional circumstances, homes achieving a good or outstanding rating will be inspected only once a year
Recommendation 19: I urge Ofsted to ensure that dialogue between homes and inspectors is the norm before, during and after inspection and that inspector performance assessment takes account of this requirement.
Recommendation 20: I urge the new Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education, Children’s Services and Skills to review the practice of using one or two word judgements when inspecting children’s homes. They can do a disservice to some thoughtful reporting.
Recommendation 21: Commissioners should abandon blanket policies that rule out placements in homes which, essentially, are satisfactory. And Ofsted should no longer encourage authorities only to place children in good or outstanding homes.
Recommendation 22: I urge Ofsted to clarify – very loudly – the reality that a requires improvement verdict means that a home is an adequate home.
Recommendation 23: I urge Ofsted to be more alive to the fact that a decision to place a child against the home manager’s will, while best avoided, may sometimes be the right decision. They should be cautious about second-guessing such decisions.
Recommendation 24: Providers may want to consider whether it is appropriate for the manager necessarily to own what is essentially a veto on a placement. The Children’s Homes Regulations state that the registered person must ensure that children are only admitted to a home if their needs are within the range catered for in the statement of purpose. In most instances, the manager is identified as the registered person. But the regulations allow either the manager or the provider to fulfil that role.
Recommendation 25: I urge Ofsted to re-visit their inspection framework and acknowledge that, exceptionally; the use of restraint on particularly challenging children might not reduce over time.
Recommendation 26: I recommend that the Department for Education discuss with Ofsted how arrangements for Regulation 44 visitors might be improved, including whether Ofsted should have the power to approve the appointment and/or require the replacement of such visitors.
Chapter Five: Staff qualifications, pay and recruitment
Recommendation 27. Although the intention in Scotland is to require staff in children’s homes to be graduates (from 2018) I urge Ministers not to follow that example in England.
Recommendation 28. The Department for Education should ensure that where the diploma is delivered primarily online, and without group tutoring, that standards are not compromised.
Recommendation 29. Commissioners should look for evidence that providers offer continuing staff development, particularly through team-based training. And DfE should advise commissioners about the RESuLT programme and similar team approaches, which are likely to prove effective in developing staff.
Recommendation 30. DfE should consider how the expectation that homes should be managed by qualified social workers can be established.
Recommendation 31. I recommend that DfE move swiftly to ensure that as many social work students as possible spend some of their two hundred days placement experience in children’s homes.
Recommendation 32. I recommend that the Department identify and promulgate best practice in recruitment to children’s homes. That should include advice on how, as far as possible, employers can screen out those whose behaviour might fall short of the immense challenge that this work can present.
Chapter Six: Staying Close rather than Staying Put?
Recommendation 33: Subject only to verifying my cost estimates through a number of Innovation Programme pilots, I urge the Government to commit to introducing Staying Close. And I recommend that that Ed Nixon and Ian Dickson from ECLCM should be invited to help officials in the Department for Education further to develop this reform, including advising on the selection and management of the pilots.
Conclusions and the need for system leadership
Recommendation 34: The Department for Education should establish a Residential Care Leadership Board. It should report to the Minister for Children, be supported by officials from the Department, and comprise academics; providers from local authorities, the voluntary and the private sector; commissioners and other experts.