An independent organisation to help providers drive improvements across residential child care is in the final stages of development, Community Care can reveal.
Led by Jonathan Stanley, former manager of the National Centre for Excellence in Residential Child Care (NCERCC), the initiative will be subscription-based and open to all those with an interest in residential child care, including providers, commissioners and policy makers.
Stanley will shortly be making an announcement about the initiative, which he said will see a return of the Children’s Residential Network – renamed the English Residential Network.
He told Community Care that Ofsted’s recent report Outstanding Children’s Homes – which advised the government to do more to improve children’s homes and distribute best practice – “makes the case that a national centre is both necessary and effective”.
“The report is a confirmation of the NCERCC work programme. All the practice included in Ofsted’s report was being supported as part of NCERCC’s work,” he said.
Based at the National Children’s Bureau, the NCERCC was contracted by Labour to support and improve residential child care, but had its £300,000 contract controversially withdrawn by the Department for Children, Schools and Families in April 2010.
Its funding was put towards a separate children’s homes contract, awarded to consultancy group Tribal, but this was cancelled in September by ministers at the Department for Education. Ministers said they were confident that the loss of a national centre would not disadvantage the sector.
But children’s homes bosses and sector experts have said there remains a gap left by the NCERCC, and an urgent need to continue its body of work.
One children’s home manager, who did not wish to be named, said: “The government assured us that the loss of a national contract would not disadvantage the sector and that ministers would announce what they were doing to fill the gap very soon. But we have heard nothing.”
Steve Lord, co-chair of the Independent Children’s Homes Association, said Ofsted’s report showed there was a clear need for an independent, neutral body to drive improvements across the sector. “The loss of the NCERCC was a shame. A national, independent focus is crucial.”
Andrew Rome, a residential child care consultant, agreed that the loss of the NCERCC had seen a reduction in the ability of children’s homes to share best practice.
A DfE spokesman claimed ministers were working with the sector to drive improvements through training and supporting staff and sharing best practice across the sector. “This includes hearing from leaders of outstanding children’s homes about how standards can be raised across the board,” the spokesperson said.
Community Care is waiting on a request for any further details about this work by ministers.
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