Children’s homes ‘should be commissioned nationally’

Children's homes and advocacy services should be commissioned nationally according to looked-after children's charity Voice.

Children’s homes and advocacy services should be commissioned nationally according to looked-after children’s charity Voice.

Chief executive John Kemmis said the past decade had seen a gradual demise in more specialist residential care because of its cost to local authorities. He added: “This is crying out for a national and regional solution.”

Kemmis said the link between the type of children sent to children’s homes and criminal justice and mental health systems needed to be better understood when commissioning such services.

Read blog by John Kemmis on need for smarter commissioning

“These are expensive children but if they don’t get these interventions they can become even more expensive adults to the state,” he warned.

Kemmis said specialist providers needed skilled and experienced staff but this could not be delivered through spot purchasing by local authorities, as happens currently.

“We need to have a national strategy for the 10% of children who need this kind of care and it needs to be able to pull money from more than one source,” he added.

However, the Local Government Association said it opposed national solutions.

“There is evidence from previous examples of national commissioning that you are breaking some important local links if you do that,” said policy analyst Ian Keating.

He called for a sub-regional approach to be developed, saying this would cope with the costs of specialist provision while meeting the needs of local children.

However, Kemmis pointed out that the current government was pulling back from regional government, which only left a national solution.

He called the commissioning of children’s services in general a “time-consuming processes designed to both cut costs and control the way the service is delivered but in fact wasting huge resources”. He also claimed that large charities can exploit the current system to “hoover up” contracts leaving smaller charities less able to compete or afford unsuccessful tenders.

Kemmis is due to raise his proposals with government officials at a seminar in November.

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