Children’s homes report dramatic drop in referrals

Almost three-quarters of independent children's homes have seen referrals dramatically reduced or cut completely according to the Independent Children's Homes Association. (Picture: Rex Features, model released)

Almost three-quarters of independent children’s homes have seen referrals dramatically reduced or cut completely according to the Independent Children’s Homes Association.

Jim Sullivan, chair of the ICHA, said: “We recently held a general meeting which was attended by an unusually high number of our members which itself indicates their grave concern for the health of the residential sector. We took a straw poll which showed that referrals were either drastically reduced or had dried up for 70% of our members. We also found that 70% believed that financial constraints rather than care plans were behind such a major drop in referrals. Half of our members also said that they were very worried that they would not be in business in a year’s time if current market conditions continued.”

Following the meeting the ICHA sought and was granted a meeting with children’s minister Tim Loughton and his Labour counterpart Toby Perkins today.

Sullivan added: “we are emphatically not saying that our members are owed a living by anyone. We are all seeking to trim our costs but the bottom line is that residential care is expensive, given the scale of care required. It is vital to a significant minority of looked-after children for whom cheaper options such as adoption and fostering are just not suitable. We are keen that policy-makers fully understand the difficulties faced by our members and that they will help us to organise long-term relationships between providers and commissioners so that our sector can continue to provide quality care.”

He said ministers needed to take action to prevent pioneering and experienced practitioners in small homes leave the sector and not be easily replaced. He said this in turn would compact on the care system because high quality residential placements were able to curb expensive social problems such as educational under-attainment, various forms of abuse, high mental health problems and prison.

He said both Loughton and Perkins had agreed to visit independent homes. The ICHA were also going to send them data on the changing shape of the residential sector.

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