Local authorities' commissioning of children's services from across the public, private and voluntary sectors has led to a wide variety of contracting arrangements.
The new National Framework Contract for Children's Homes aims to cut duplication and make matters simpler for commissioners and suppliers.
It also aims to share best practice, improve partnerships, safeguard high standards of care and education and provide a model for residential care homes and local authorities to sign up to.
Although the contract will apply only to new placements, it is recommended that existing placements are transferred to the new contract at the next annual review. The contract was written by a group of providers and purchasers working together over a period of 18 months.
The National Contract Steering Group will meet regularly over the next 12 months to monitor use of the contract prior to a review next year. They will also oversee the production of a young-person friendly version over the next year.
Jonathan Stanley, manager of the National Centre for Excellence in Residential Child Care, said: "It is about outcomes rather than inputs. If a child reads it, they should be able to say, yes, this is about me and the quality of care I am receiving. The children's versions will be a major step forward."
Alison Trainor, co-chair of the Independent Children's Homes Association, said: "This contract should provide the basis for ensuring the development of transparent relationships between purchasers and providers that ultimately lead to improving outcomes for children and young people in our care."
This is the second in a suite of contracts, following the national contract for residential schools. The intention now is to develop a similar contract for independent fostering agencies using this contract as a template.
- View the contract at www.everychildmatters.gov.uk.