New research: Why do children go into children’s homes?

Source: Ofsted Published 13 April 2022

A national audit of the needs of children in care must be launched to properly deal with issues around the sufficiency of social care placements, Ofsted has said. New research by the inspectorate found that just over half of children living in children’s homes had residential care included in their care plan.

One of the aspects of this small study was to try and capture some of that experience. One of the inspectors recording the needs of an 8-year-old child whose mother had died recently, and who was distressed, wrote that the child had a ‘high need for love and nurture’. This applies in all sorts of different ways to all the vulnerable children in this selection, as well as to all children in care. Meeting those needs, and ensuring that the needs of all children in care are met, is at the heart of the work of all of those who contributed to this data study.

Ofsted ‘Why do children go into children’s homes?’

Main findings

Our main findings from the questionnaire responses of those who took part in the study show that:

  • the current placement was the first time ever in care for almost one fifth of the children
  • residential care was part of the intended care plan for just over half of the children
  • foster care was part of the original care plan for just over one third of the children
  • two thirds of the children entered a children’s home because of some form of interruption in their previous care: foster placement breakdown (41%), children’s home breakdown (15%) or family breakdown (12%)
  • the move to a children’s home was planned for almost four fifths of the children; that is, all the necessary preparations were made in advance
  • the move to a children’s home was an emergency move for one fifth of the children; that is, events either at home or in another care placement meant that urgent action had to be taken that resulted in the child entering the children’s home
  • around three quarters of the children were judged – by the inspector and registered manager – to be well matched to the home

Ofsted plan to publish more on the diversity of needs that children’s homes try to meet, and, separately, something on how far children travel to those homes.

Ofsted acknowledge that the breadth of needs described touches on other areas where collective knowledge is poor. The DfE’s national collection of data on children in care captures some information, but at a very high level and only captures one element of need. To understand sufficiency properly, Ofsted says “we must better understand the extent of the needs of children in care, and better understand the dynamics experienced by the children, their carers, LA senior managers, social workers, commissioners and independent reviewing officers. In order to do this, it is necessary to carry out a proper national audit of the needs of children in care.”

Read the report in full: Why do children go into children’s homes?

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