Leadership in Residential Child Care. Evaluating Qualification
Dione Hills and Camilla Child, John Wiley & Sons,
ISBN 0 471 98477 9
Staff training for residential child care is an emotive issue.
Scandals have revealed a situation where troubled children have
been looked after by untrained carers whose credentials have gone
This is clearly unsatisfactory but attempts to increase the
numbers of qualified staff have had limited success and plans for
improvement are confounded by the perennial question of what staff
should be trained to do.
This study evaluates a residential child care initiative in
which 452 senior staff attended diploma in social work programmes
specially designed for students from residential backgrounds.
The initiative enjoyed varied degrees of success. There were
problems of making residential issues relevant to all of the
students on the course without patronising those with residential
Coverage of residential work was patchy, often reflecting the
interests of tutors. Students from residential settings liked the
sections on law and management but were less content with the
teaching on corporate parenting and adolescence.
It is well known that rather than increasing the competence of
residential workers, training can provide access to more lucrative
and comfortable jobs. So the findings on students' return to work
are critical. Most went back to their previous employment but 82
per cent were not promoted and a quarter went back to a different
The transition proved universally difficult. The service had
often changed during students' absence and few returned to do
exactly the same job, despite the fact that most went back to the
Nevertheless, the students felt more confident, informed and, in
some cases, skilled. The disappointments were that agencies did not
use their newly trained staff to improve services and encourage
others to study.
In a final chapter, the authors discuss future training for
residential child care. They stress that formal training has to be
linked to work-based learning but DipSW can make a special
contribution by virtue of its theoretical component and the
confidence that students derive from greater clarity about their
methods of work.
This is an important addition to a scant research literature. It
is clear that the content and method of training cannot be
considered in isolation, and that expectations about residential
work reflect aspirations for the welfare of looked-after children.
That requires assessments of their needs and decisions about the
services necessary to meet them. Only then can we be clear about
who should do what in residential care and the training they
Roger Bullock is director, Dartington Social Research Unit