Wood sets out priority areas in residential care reform

By Neil Puffett

| 12 March 2018

Government efforts to improve residential care will focus on just two areas until there is clarity about leadership arrangements across children's social care in its entirety, the man in charge of the reforms has said.

Sir Alan Wood is chair of the Residential Care Leadership Board. Picture: Alex Deverill

Sir Alan Wood, chair of the Residential Care Leadership Board set up to lead on the delivery of changes recommended in Sir Martin Narey's 2016 review of the sector, told CYP Now that for the time being, resources are being concentrated on trialling so-called Staying Close arrangements for young people to remain supported up to 25, and looking at ways to improve placement commissioning.

He said that as of yet no appointments have been made to the board, and that is likely to continue to be the case until the Department for Education has decided whether to pursue a recommendation in the recent fostering stocktake that an overarching "permanence board" be established.

The stocktake, which was co-chaired by Sir Martin Narey and Mark Owers, called for a permanence board to be set up to oversee the work of the existing Adoption Leadership Board, the Residential Care Leadership Board, and a similar arrangement for fostering.

In total, Narey's review of residential care made 34 recommendations.

"With the change of ministers there has been a bit of a hiatus about the residential care leadership board moving forward," Wood said.

"What I have been doing is visiting people, providers, and homes, meeting pilot projects on commissioning work, and collecting information. But I guess we won't be able to do a great deal more than that until thinking about the permanence board is clarified.

"It would be foolish to keep starting up boards if there are just lots of people with lots of boards."

A total of eight pilots have now launched, including one run by Fair Ways Foundation in Southampton, and St Christopher's Fellowship in London alongside Ealing Council, Hounslow Council, the West London Alliance and mental health charity MAC-UK.

Staying Close involves offering young people leaving residential care the chance to move into nearby supported accommodation, in order to maintain attachments with their former home and its staff through regular visits and ongoing support.

And Wood said three projects funded through the Department for Education's social care innovation fund to improve the commissioning of children's homes - in Essex, north London, and south London, are under way.

"I have sent letters to stakeholders saying we will be taking forward reforms in those [two] key areas," Wood said.

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