Fears over future of children’s homes improvement

The government's decision not to award a children's homes contract to the Tribal group has sparked concerns over what will replace it.

The government’s decision not to award a children’s homes contract to the Tribal group has sparked concerns over what will replace it.

It follows confirmation from the Department for Education – which revoked Tribal’s contract to improve standards in residential care – that no new contract will be awarded to any organisation. Instead, the department will move the work in-house to make savings.

The £300,000 contract had been held by the National Centre for Excellence in Residential Child Care (NCERCC) until the last government awarded it to the private consultancy group Tribal.

A statement from the DfE said ministers had decided the most “effective and cost-effective” way of improving the quality of residential care was to work with the sector to review what is working and what needs improving.

Andrew Rome, former chair of the Independent Children’s Homes Association, said that, as there would be no new contract or money, it was important a “national and independent” focus on residential care remained. He said this would be easier, “if the funding was available centrally”.

But he added that the logical conclusion to the government’s statement was that the sector itself would have to fund and drive that. “If the department is going to play a role in trying to pull partners together, they must get the right people there. We need to know what the government will do and who they will consult.”

The extent to which the NCERCC, now operating as NCB Residential Child Care, will be consulted is still unclear.

John Kemmis, chief executive of care leaver charity Voice, said a “regional or national solution” to the problems facing residential care was still needed. He expressed concern over the number of children’s homes already closing due to the expense of specialist interventions.

Lord Listowel, vice chair of the Associate Parliamentary Group for looked-after children and care leavers, said the sector had been disappointed to see the NCERCC lose its funding.

He said the decision not to award the contract to Tribal was a “good step forward”, but said it must not lead to a lack of focus on, and reform of, residential care.

Phil Frampton, former chair of the Care Leavers Association, said, “Tribal’s demise is a victory”, but he urged the government to “use the money saved by cancelling the award to commit resources to create stable, long-term residential care for the children in the system.”

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