In other European countries the training and qualifications of
residential child care workers are equal in status to those of
social workers, nurses and teachers. It remains possible in Britain
to employ staff with no relevant training or experience to care for
young people in children’s homes. In future all residential child
care workers will be expected to be trained towards national
vocational qualification level 3, but this falls far short of what
Other professionals who work with young people are required to have
a higher qualification. Shouldn’t there be the same expectation for
residential child care workers who must contain the problematic
symptoms brought about by the emotional turmoil experienced by the
young people for whom they care? The workers have to make sense of
this turmoil for themselves, for individual young people, for the
resident group of a children’s home, for parents, for social
workers, for teachers and for the community.
They must have the professional and personal skills to develop
trusting relationships with young people whose childhood
experiences have not provided them with sufficient resources to
form positive relationships easily. And they must tread
sensitively, yet helpfully, through the vicissitudes of a young
person’s family relationships while encouraging and motivating
Add to this the skills to facilitate and manage group living, be an
effective advocate, be skilled in written communication and hold or
access a range of child protection and child care legislation
information, then we are describing a complicated professional
It is a role that requires insight, informed by experience, study
and and personal reflection. NVQ training cannot achieve this. The
rationale behind the contention that NVQ training is good enough
for residential child care workers but not good enough for other
related professions needs to be challenged.
Children’s homes need to recruit and retain quality staff.
Providers should be able to show potential recruits that they are
taking up a profession held in esteem.
In its forthcoming review of the training requirements for
residential child care workers, training body Topss has a chance to
bring this about. Taking such an opportunity would make a powerful
statement about our commitment to providing young people in
children’s homes with the quality of care they need and deserve.
Charles Sharpe is a consultant on residential child