The government has not given children’s homes enough time or money to save the National Centre for Excellence in Residential Child Care (NCERCC) after acting in an “arbitrary and secretive manner”, sector leaders have told Community Care.
The comments come as providers try to save the sector-led improvement agency, which lost its funding when the government awarded a private contract to “support and challenge” children’s homes to consultancy group Tribal, to start in May.
Richard Rollinson, chair of the professional advisory group at the Charterhouse Group of therapeutic communities, said children’s homes providers and local authorities were being urged to come forward to help raise the NCERCC’s previous £300,000 of annual funding.
“The Department for Children, Schools and Families has not given us enough time or money to save the NCERCC, but there are strong incentives for a number of groups and organisations to see this as something to strive for. We are in tough financial times but we cannot afford to lose the NCERCC.”
Rollinson said all those who wanted to keep the NCERCC alive should contact their sector organisation, such as the Independent Children’s Homes Association, the National Care Association or the Charterhouse Group.
Adrian Ward, a former children’s home manager and academic working at London’s Tavistock Clinic, said it was difficult to find a rational reason for the axing of the NCERCC’s funding “especially in the context of this apparently arbitrary and secretive decision-making”.
“The NCERCC has established real credibility right across the sector. I feel that the DCSF has acted in a wholly destructive way towards the NCERCC and the whole sector. There was no consultation whatsoever about the diversion of funds,” Ward said.
However, Janet Rich, speaking on behalf of the National Care Association, said the best outcome would be a strengthened NCERCC, owned by the sector with a permanent future to run alongside Tribal’s time-limited contract which had “a single and very specific focus”. Rich is working in a limited advisory role to Tribal.
Charles Sharpe, a psychotherapist who has worked in children’s homes and residential schools for over 30 years, said: “Residential child care has a history of being treated like this and it is symptomatic of what happens to children in care who are moved homes without sufficient notice and subjected to short-term placements and initiatives. Children don’t just ‘forget and move on’ and neither will the sector.”
Clive Lee, chief executive of the Caldecott Foundation and a board member of the National Care Association, said: “Under the leadership of Jonathan Stanley who is one of the most respected and knowledgeable sector experts in the field of residential child care, the NCERCC has made a real difference to policy, practice and the public image of residential child care. It will be greatly missed if we lose it forever.”