Directors of children’s services have disputed claims that there is an ‘anti-residential child care feeling’ in local authorities.
Speaking on behalf of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS), former president Andrew Webb disagreed with the view of many children’s homes, saying: “Local authorities are not against residential child care. We provide it, we commission it and we see it as having a very important place in the range of services that children need”.
His comments follow a damning report on the state of residential child care, published by the Independent Children’s Homes Association (ICHA), that warned the sector is under-estimated, under-valued and under-funded.
Webb accused the Association of taking a “pot-shot at local and central government for not making it easy for them to do business”.
“The report is just a collection of opinions of [ICHA] members and some of them use fairly inflammatory language, which does not reflect what we see in local authorities in terms of commissioning arrangements,” he said.
The ICHA’s ‘Home Truths’ report, published earlier this month, warned an “anti-residential feeling” had developed in local authorities and needs to be challenged for children’s homes to survive. It surveyed its 500 members and stressed the need for a professional body for residential child care, as well as a qualification and registration of staff.
Webb said: “I do not pick up an anti-residential child care culture, I just see a thirst in local authority commissioners to get really good value for money and excellent outcomes.
“Not all residential care is doing as well as it should do and not all residential care gives value for money and as commissioners we need to bear quality and cost issues in when mind when making decisions.”
The former ADCS president did, however, acknowledge that residential providers were working in “the most difficult area” and said the ADCS is looking at how to move away from the out-dated construct of children’s homes as a placement of last resort.
“We need to find alternatives that are more community-based for using residential care and that is something we are actively working on,” he said.
Speaking to Community Care earlier this month, ICHA chief executive Jonathan Stanley said: “It has to be a major concern that this vital sector is experiencing demoralisation and fears irrevocable damage through its further diminution and contraction, even collapse, as providers disappear.”