Local authorities’ reluctance to place children in homes with an ‘adequate’ Ofsted rating risks making up to 2,000 placements unavailable, a new report has warned.
The report was published by the Independent Children’s Homes Association (ICHA) after it submitted a freedom of information request to councils, which found 68 of 113 (60%) responding local authorities would not place children in homes rated ‘adequate’.
The remaining 45 local authorities said they may, but this was not usually considered ideal.
The report also identified a 31% increase in the number of homes that had dropped from a ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ grade in 2013, to ‘adequate’ or lower in 2014.
If the average number of placements per home is four, this could equate to up to 2,000 places being seen as undesirable, the ICHA warned.
The association also expressed concern that providers are taking action to protect a ‘good’ rating by not offering placements to children with complex needs. Its report states that all providers now scrutinise referrals and, if there are concerns that the individual’s needs may have an effect on an Ofsted outcome, they may not be taken forward.
This could further reduce the number of placements available, and it is already common for commissioners to struggle to find a home to accept a child with higher-level needs, it states.
The association is now calling for more focus on supporting providers to maintain a ‘good’ rating and where this does not happen, inspectors and providers should work together to agree and implement an improvement plan.
Jonathan Stanley, chief executive of the ICHA, said: “There are many factors in why a home can be seen as adequate that can be swiftly and easily rectified and Ofsted statistics show homes have the capacity to recover quickly given sufficient, timely support.
“Without admissions, a home’s viability will be tested and it needs to be supported to return to a ‘good’ rating as soon as possible, for the benefit of young people and its own sustainability.”
The report also makes a series of recommendations including:
- A new joint partnership between Ofsted, councils and providers to ensure homes are supported to maintain or achieve ‘good’ ratings
- Good practice materials to be made readily available by the Department of Education
- If services are rated ‘adequate’ (or ‘requiring improvement’ under the new system), they should be supported to produce and complete a ‘getting good’ plan. On completion, they should then receive a second key inspection to allow them to return to a ‘good’ outcome.