Large, independently run children’s home providers perform better than small independent homes or council-run homes, according to Ofsted’s annual report.
The watchdog said 9% of individually owned children’s homes had inadequate ratings, compared with 2% of those owned by providers with 10 homes or more. Eleven per cent of individually owned homes were rated as outstanding, compared with 15% of homes provided by large companies.
The results contradict the views of many small, independent children’s home providers who argue that smaller homes provide a more bespoke service for children. In the past, larger, private children’s homes that are owned by private equity companies have been criticised for focusing on profit at the expense of children’s outcomes – a claim they reject.
Overall, council-run homes did worse in Ofsted inspections than independently run homes, adding impetus to the existing trend of councils giving up their children’s home provision. The latest report may also, however, fuel fears that children’s home provision will soon be dominated by a few large providers, able to survive the current budget cuts and still meet Ofsted requirements.
John Goldup, director of development for social care at Ofsted, told Community Care: “In the independent sector, there seems to be a benefit to having access to a wider range of support resources and accumulated learning from other successful homes in the group.
“Also, quality begets quality and sometimes the best practice within a smaller group of homes is the spur for expansion because it provides a model that can be taken on.”
Ofsted’s annual report also stated that small homes needed to ensure management was rigorous and did not depend too much on individuals who could move on.
Goldup said the performance of local authority homes suggested that the benefits of large groups within the independent sector are much more difficult to achieve under council control. However, Ofsted was unable to draw any definite conclusions about why this was the case.
“This raises some really important issues that local authorities in their role as providers need to look at, but anything I say about reasons now would be speculation,” he said.
He added that the pattern for independent children’s homes is also seen in areas outside of social care within Ofsted’s report. Child minders who were part of wider networks and schools that were members of federations tended to fare better in Ofsted ratings.
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