Special Report: Residential Care

Standards of residential child care have never been higher, but a shortage of provision and rising demand due to more traumatised children coming into the system is stretching local authority budgets to the limit.

Recognition is growing over the vital role played by residential care in supporting the needs of looked-after children.

Sir Martin Narey's review of residential child care was largely positive on the quality of care delivered by children's home providers and staff. Since then, a leadership board has been established to identify improvements in how residential care is commissioned and test new approaches to semi-independent living arrangements.

Despite these positive policy developments, there is growing concern over the amount councils are spending on costly residential care placements. As many cash-strapped councils close their own homes, private providers are moving in, leading to accusations of profiteering. Conversely, many providers point to stagnant rates and rising costs.

The number of children placed in residential care has risen in recent years, reflecting the growth in the looked-after child population overall. Despite more private-sector homes opening, demand has outstripped supply making it harder for councils to place children in their local areal.

With more older children in the system, many deeply traumatised by longstanding abuse and neglect, providers are increasingly delivering specialist therapeutic support - all of which comes at a cost. However, standards of care, as judged by Ofsted ratings, has never been higher.

CYP Now's special report on residential care assesses recent research on standards in children's homes, summarises key policy developments and highlights four examples of innovative practice.

Click on the links below for more:

Policy context

Research evidence:

Leaving Care Report

Ending the Criminalisation of Children in Residential Care - Good Practice in Children's Homes

Children's Homes Research: Phase 3 Research Report

Rolling Out RESuLT: Facilitators' Experiences Delivering a First-of-its-Kind Evidence-based Intervention Training for Residential Workers

Practice examples:

Scheme emphasises early planning for leaving care

Protocol reduces police callouts to children's homes

Centre helps traumatised children engage with learning

Provider treats young people with mental health problems

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