‘A refreshingly positive review of residential care’: reaction to Narey’s report

A round up of the key recommendations in Sir Martin Narey's residential care review and what social work and children's organisations think of them

Martin Narey
Sir Martin Narey. Photo: Matt LLoyd/REX/Shutterstock

By Rachel Lucas

Sir Martin Narey’s recommendation that children leaving residential care be supported further into adulthood with a ‘Staying Close’ scheme received immediate government backing when his review into children’s homes was published last week.

Narey had been tasked to look at what works, what improvements can be made to the system and how the government could ensure these children are given the best start in life by David Cameron and education secretary Nicky Morgan last year. He was also asked to look at how  residential care is commissioned, delivered, regulated and inspected.

Here we review the sector’s reaction to Staying Close and the other recommendations put forward.

‘Staying Close’

What does the review say?

Staying Close would guarantee support for three years for children leaving residential homes. It means that young people would be able to visit their former children’s home regularly and retain links with those who have cared for them, including the support of a key worker.

Reactions

Article 39, a charity that campaigns for the rights of children in institutional settings, called the plans “a great step forward” for giving young people leaving care homes equivalent rights to those young people leaving foster care have had under Staying Put since 2014.

The Children’s Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, said care leavers may often feel they have to cope alone when they leave a residential home so providing help and advice as they transition to adulthood would be a “hugely positive step”:

“Young people who have been in care can face a range of disadvantages and may struggle to find places in education, training or employment so it is vital there is continued support. Care leavers may currently have a sense of having to cope alone when they leave residential children’s homes, so the provision of continuing help and good advice as they move on in life would be a hugely positive step.”

Dave Hill, president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) said Staying Close was “the right thing to do but this will need to be adequately funded by government”.

Staff qualifications and recruitment

What does the review say?

Narey urged ministers not to follow Scotland’s example of requiring children’s home staff to be graduates.

“The priority should be to recruit staff with the right qualities, temperament and resilience and then help them to develop and, as part of that development, to gain an understanding of the type of children they care for. That understanding can come, in part, through obtaining the mandatory level three diploma. But to work effectively in children’s homes, staff do not need to be graduates or to aspire to graduate status.”

He also recommended that as many social work students as possible spend some of their two hundred days placement experience in children’s homes to “persuade more of them to make it a career choice” and for others to realise the potential of residential care placements for children, rather than seeing it as a last resort.

Reaction

Hill said that “the recognition of the need to improve the status of the children’s residential sector and of the professionals working in this field is welcome and long overdue”.

However, Maris Stratulis, British Association of Social Workers (BASW) England manager was disappointed the idea of degree qualification had been “rejected” and said the government adviser’s position was “an opposing view to that presented for child and family social workers by the Chief Social Worker”.

Inspections

What does the review say?

Narey recommended that Ofsted only inspect ‘good’ and ‘outstanding’ homes once a year.

He also said Ofsted should no longer encourage authorities only to place children in good or outstanding homes: “I urge Ofsted to clarify – very loudly – the reality that a requires improvement verdict means that a home is an adequate home”.

Reaction

This recommendation concerned BASW. Stratulis said she would not like to see a split in the inspection processes from one service to another and “consistent quality assurance for all children’s services is a must”.

Commissioning

What does the review say?

Narey’s first recommendation was for the DfE to facilitate improvement of local and regional commissioning skills and require local authorities to form consortia to get better value from private and voluntary sector providers.

He also argued against having hard and fast rules about placement distance saying “the right placement for a child is more important than location” and warned against an assumption that smaller children homes are likely to be more effective. Planning laws, he said, are also leading to more smaller homes, which are more expensive but not more effective then slightly larger units and local variance in interpretation of planning laws is distorting the location of new homes.

Reaction

Hill said he was “sure the sector would be interested to adopt systems that provide the opportunity for more intelligent commissioning of placements”.

BASW also agreed with the recommendation for more strategic commissioning and said this should include local development to prevent distant placements likely to break local links for children, unless safeguarding issues mean it is better for the child to be placed away from their home town.

However Stratulis warned that “there appears to be a move toward the regionalisation of commissioning and there needs to be proper public accountability at each local level if this is to be the case”.

Fostering

What does the review say?

The review focused mainly on children’s homes but gave some consideration to fostering. Narey called for a full review of fostering to give it the same scrutiny as adoption and residential care have received in recent years. He noted the challenge of recruiting sufficient foster carers of the “calibre and resilience” needed to care for challenging young people.

Narey cited the example of the No Wrong Door project in North Yorkshire where a flexible approach allows residential care to be an effective bridge between foster placements and brings prospective foster cares in to work in children’s homes.

He argued that for some adolosceents who resisted family placements, residential homes may offer a greater chance of permanence

Reaction

The head of policy and research at Action for Children, Emma Smale and Anna Feuchtwang, chief executive of the National Children’s Bureau were pleased that Narey supported a fundamental review of fostering, which is believed by many to be long overdue.

However, finding the review speculative and potentially “unhelpful”, Harvey Gallagher, chief executive of the National Association of Fostering Providers argued it made improving how fostering is best made use of more difficult and didn’t find the references to foster care representative.

He said: “Commissioning is a significant contributor to the inefficient use of the foster care resource we have now, as is the split between in-house/IFP, and one local authority to another. If we don’t tackle those issues, placements will continue [to be] made in the semi-disorganised manner in which they are now. I hope any future work will have the appetite to address this in a way that government has not to date.”

“I think in some ways, Sir Martin has just made it more difficult to improve how we make best use of fostering,” Gallagher added.

Secure care and the role of the private sector

What does the review say?

Narey identified scope for improved commissioning of secure care. He said social workers often have a sense that it is morally wrong to place children in a secure unit and will go to great lengths to avoid it which was “well intentioned but misguided”.

“Secure care has the capacity, if only temporarily, to take chaos out of a child’s life and to keep them safe.”

Uncertainty about the area has contributed to the closure of a number of homes, he said, meaning that there are only fourteen homes in the country, thirteen of them run by local authorities. Narey wants the DfE to consider how they might encourage providers from the voluntary and private sector to enter the secure care market.

Reaction

Article 39 said: “There is no acknowledgement in the report of the chequered history of private companies running other locked establishments, including the serious abuse allegations at G4S-run Medway secure training centre, which have so far led to 11 arrests and the multinational selling its UK children’s business.”

 

4 Responses to ‘A refreshingly positive review of residential care’: reaction to Narey’s report

  1. liz July 19, 2016 at 12:12 pm #

    It was not all positive. Martin Narey simply ignored evidence put to him that was contrary to his conclusions. Children are still being seriously failed by these institutions.

  2. Sarah July 20, 2016 at 9:59 pm #

    I agree with Liz. It seems there’s an awful lot of avoidance in this report.

    Profiteering from vulnerable lives is a report in itself.

  3. Maggie July 26, 2016 at 3:49 am #

    I am wondering if you guys work in Children’s Social Care? There are lots of good homes that get penalised for minor infringements of regulations. The absolute rock bottom place nobody would disagree but the whole system is now designed in such a way that paperwork, continual changes in legislation all take their toll. Also in terms of profiteering surely you mean big organisations. Small care providers are often lucky if they break even. If you go back to the time Barnardos issued their first report of the problems of looked after children, it is amazing the comparison to today. The same old, same old. Looked after children have a host of complex needs that haven’t changed over the generations. There is limited natural parenting because risk avoidance rules the day. There is also a continuous regurgitation of legislation which is put out there as being the next ‘big solution’ for example the quality standards are full of undertones from Every Child Matters which was gotten rid off and which the industry understood well. Those with passion for the job or who are in it for the right reasons are squeezed dry due to cuts from funding. They are lucky to profit at all.

    Is it failure? Is it not that the complexities of looked after children are such that they cannot be pigeon holed. You are right. There are truly awful places but they are being weeded out gradually by the Inspection process. However, there are some great and good providers.

    Can I ask what your solution would be?

  4. Jane August 1, 2016 at 11:30 am #

    Oh my goodness, so much more could be improved if only there was not the high level of disparities in relation to the professionals take of the the inspection process.

    I am of the view that some homes are unfairly graded due to the interpretation of some professionals as to the inspection methodology. For example, an inspector requests to view a homes policies and procedures and does not identify a fundamental error wherein there is no Medication Policy in place providing safe medication management guidance for staff, the omission of the policy is not referred to in the inspection report, surely this should not be the case. However another inspector will deem that there is a failing in meeting the regulation when one fire drill has been omitted in a 12 month period, albeit that all other checks were undertaken, rightly this is recorded as an identified failing.

    In retrospect we would all agree that both hare equally important in keeping children a young people safe. One still questions the consistency, also the robustness of the inspection methodology. It is the case there are many providers who within their employ have staff who are passionate and experienced practioner’s however where homes are unfairly graded, (providers remain reluctant challenge), these homes will find it difficult to retain staff wherein they have been judged unfairly.