The government has the best of intentions, but its innovation programme, announced yesterday, is based on a false premise. In the current conditions the well-meant idea will not bring the benefits the sector urgently needs.
The money for the Innovation Programme needs to be redirected to first achieve the security of the sector in the present, and then another injection of such funding for the future will be welcomed.
Does the government not know the sector is already innovative? Its already-established diversity shows its innovation. If there is anything anywhere in the world that is better, and we know because we are exporting our leading practitioners, trainers and thinkers, then we would be doing it.
Ofsted statistics have shown that year on year the quality of the sector has increased and even been remarked upon by Ofsted. The residential child care sector is having a crisis imposed on it and there are two primary sources the government must sort out.
The sector is having the financial life squeezed out of it. If there isn’t a change we will see a much changed and smaller sector without the diversity, specialism and choice that are so vital to safety and security for young people. The Government cannot say they weren’t told.
And then there are the effects of the inconsistency of Ofsted inspections. The current Ofsted inspection regime only brings dilemmas for providers. Do something for one inspector and it’s OK, but do the same for another and it’s not.
Previously ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ rated homes are increasingly unable to take any admissions through being judged as ‘requiring improvement’ and local authorities are directing not to place children in homes with that grading. This grading will not change for a year.
Homes are living on reserves. When they return to ‘good’ they will find their income reduced because councils drive down fees even though the Department for Education’s reforms are increasing costs by at least £3,000 this year. We have told the government that placement patterns are changing rapidly as providers respond to ensure they retain the all-important Ofsted grading.
The government has made a situation where there is a group of young people who increasingly will find that there is nowhere able to offer them the care, understanding and protection they could benefit from.