Child protection usually hits the headlines when a child dies,
while long-standing problems tend to escape scrutiny. Take the
parlous state of the inspection of children’s homes by the National
Care Standards Commission, for example.
The establishment of the NCSC was welcome as there were huge
variations in the standards of care provided and these needed to be
challenged. Organisations which face external inspection are often
less than enthusiastic about the process, but independent
inspection and regulation is essential in light of the abuse that
has been uncovered in some homes in the past.
However, there has been little objective appraisal of how the NCSC
itself has performed. During its first year of operation, only 53
per cent of unannounced inspections of children’s homes were
carried out and 10 per cent of announced inspections were not
implemented. Just 17 per cent of reports for unannounced
inspections were produced and 57 per cent for announced
This performance is poor. It denies the public information to which
they are entitled and it denies children the information that they
should rightly receive. It also denies commissioning bodies the
vital information which could help them in making sure they buy
good quality services.
But in addition to this, service providers are denied information
and feedback on how they are doing. Those of us who run independent
children’s homes want to be assessed so that we can continue to
deliver quality services for the children in our care. We are
reluctant to benchmark our services against parallel services in
the public sector.
In April the NCSC will merge with the Department of Health’s Social
Services Inspectorate to form the Commission for Social Care
Inspection. The experience of the NCSC makes it vital that all
those with an interest and influence in child protection do some
straight talking and insist on clear answers to the following tough
- Will vulnerable children go unprotected?
- Will the public be denied information?
- Will we spend enormous sums of public money without securing
the first-class regulatory and inspection service that children
Gary Kent is parliamentary officer for the Association
of Independent Child Care Providers.