DfE to investigate staff at children’s homes after Care Review published

The Ministry of Education will conduct research into the workforce of children’s homes after the care review is released, the children’s minister has announced.

Will Quince made the announcement in a statement to the House of Commonspresenting the government’s initial response to the two the article and the conclusions of a Investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority (AMC) in the social care market for children, which were published in March.

The DfE had previously announced that it would publish its response to the inquiry following the publication of Care Review’s final recommendations.

He said: ‘I have instructed my department to conduct extensive research into the children’s home workforce, engaging with industry and experts to improve market surveillance.

Quince also shared his plans in a letter to Andrea CoscelliCEO of the CMA.

In its final report, the CMA urged every UK government to commission an annual review of the state of the sector, which would ‘examine the extent and causes of any understaffing in children’s or foster homes’ .

“The recruitment and retention of children’s homes staff is a significant barrier to building new capacity,” he notes.

Care examination chair Josh MacAlister backed CMA’s year-long investigationsaying its findings would be used to shape the recommendations of its review.

In its final recommendations, released yesterday (May 23), MacAlister proposes the creation of regional commissioning cooperatives to “provide oversight to ensure quality and consistency across all homes” alongside the recruitment of 9,000 new families of welcome.

It also puts forward proposals for a windfall tax on child welfare providers making the biggest profits.

Responding to the review’s recommendations, a CMA spokesperson said: ‘Our study found that the system for children in care is failing some of those most in need and the independent review of Child Welfare concluded the same. It is crucial that changes are made to provide better oversight of the financial stability of large providers and better support for councils to access children’s homes.

The recommendations divided opinion across the sector.

Andy Elvin, chief executive of Tact care, said: “Having one body with sole responsibility for the commissioning of residential care and foster care, in my view, gives local authorities greater freedom of choice and a easier decision-making about the best placement for a child.”

Steve Crocker, president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, added that “more detail” is needed to “fully understand how some of the reforms would work in practice, such as regional care co-operatives.”

“Careful testing and evaluation may be required before wider implementation of certain aspects of the recommendations to ensure that the best interests of children are not lost despite the best intentions,” he said.

However, Peter Sandiford, chief executive of the Independent Children’s Homes Association, warned that “the review demonstrates MacAlister’s lack of knowledge about residential care for children and highlights the review’s failure to involve experts and representatives of this sector”.

“The voice and experience of experts from highly specialized services, who care for children with the most complex needs in society, should have been at the center of this review. However, no representative or expert from the residential child care sector participated meaningfully in the review at any time. As a result, MacAlister failed to understand the vital issues or learn from the work done to address them. An opportunity was unfortunately missed,” he said.

Responding to the scrutiny, Quince told MPs he had ‘three main priorities’ for the government to ‘form a bold and ambitious response and implementation strategy to be released before the end of 2022’.

“The first is to improve the child protection system, so that it protects children as effectively as possible, the second is to help families take care of their children so that they can have a safe, loving and happy childhood that prepares them for fulfilling lives, and the third is to ensure that there are the right placements for children in the right places, so that those who cannot stay with their parents grow up in safe, stable and loving homes,” he said.

Jacob L. Thornton