Children's home managers highlight recruitment problems

Neil Puffett
Monday, January 5, 2015

Children's homes are struggling to find suitable staff with more than half of managers reporting difficulties recruiting candidates with appropriate skills and training.

Improving the skills of children's home staff will help looked-after children achieve in life and be safe, says government
Improving the skills of children's home staff will help looked-after children achieve in life and be safe, says government

A report on the findings of a census of the workforce of children’s homes, published by the Department for Education today, found that 54 per cent of managers said they find it difficult to recruit suitable staff for vacant positions.

Of the managers who reported difficulty recruiting, 91 per cent said applicants do not have the required experience, with 52 per cent stating they do not have the necessary qualifications.

The concerns over recruitment have coincided with a government announcement that two new qualifications for new children’s home staff will be launched to improve skills and knowledge around child sexual exploitation and cyberbullying.

The qualifications, which will be mandatory for new staff and managers, but optional for existing staff, will teach them how to spot early signs of CSE or that a child might be a victim of cyberbullying, and how to act to keep children in their care safe.

All new staff without a relevant qualification will have to gain the new qualifications – an NVQ Level 3 Diploma for Residential Childcare for care staff and a Level 5 Diploma in Leadership and Management for Residential Care for managers.

The diplomas will replace existing qualifications.

New care staff will have two years from commencing their role to complete the qualification, and managers will have three years.

Children's minister Edward Timpson, said a highly skilled workforce is crucial if the life chances of looked-after children are to be improved.

“While I have no doubt that the vast majority of care home staff display great commitment and relentless dedication in providing a stable and caring environment for those they look after, the simple fact is that quality matters," he added.

“These new qualifications will help make sure that staff have the knowledge, skills and confidence to keep these children safe from harm, while propelling them on to a life full of achievement and self-belief.”

The census survey found that managers reported a wide range of training was available to staff, with 83 per cent of homes offering to release staff for external training and 79 per cent saying they bring in external trainers to the home.

The survey also highlighted low wages in some homes.

It found that more than one in ten (11 per cent) of all staff were being paid less than the Living Wage Rate, which, at the time of the census was £7.65 an hour outside of London and £8.80 an hour in London.

In total, 841 homes took part in the census – the equivalent of 49 per cent of all eligible homes in England – with the number of staff in each home varying between one and 95, with an average of 12.

The report states that, extrapolated across England, this equates to a national workforce of in excess of 20,000.

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