CMA launches study of children’s social care provision

Posted: 30th March 2021

The CMA today identifies four particular areas it wants to look at in its study of children’s social care announced today:

· the supply of placements, including whether the current balance of local authority, private sector and third sector provision is working well for children and local authorities
· prices charged by providers and variation between prices paid for similar types of placement, with increasing prices potentially putting pressure on local authority budgets
· the way commissioning of places is carried out, and whether local authorities could be more effective in securing appropriate placements for children
· the environment for investing in the system to ensure sufficient appropriate places are available for all children who need them in the future, and whether any measures should be taken to improve this.

The Independent Children’s Homes Association welcomes the scrutiny that will come from this review and the two others that are taking place, the Care Review and the House of Commons Education Committee review.

We know from Ofsted inspections that the independent sector provision is of at least as good quality as LA’s own homes Whilst 2% inadequate provision across all registered children’s homes is too much I would suggest it is less than the general public believes it to be given what appears in the media.

Whilst of course there are outliers the vast majority of registered children’s homes are in fact cheaper to place in than the in-house local authority provision (PSSU report December 2019). But, given the way residential child care is frequently used in this country as a ‘last resort’ is it surprising that it is expensive? Many of the children as well as having significant early life trauma have then undergone the additional trauma of successive fostering placements, often numbering into double figures and this inevitably leads to the need for more intensive, and therefore costly, interventions.

As can be seen from the Local Government Association reports into profit the companies concerned reinvest their ‘profits’ in the sector both in terms of quality and in growing their service offer. I believe the answer to the lack of sufficiency lies not in trying to apportion blame but in the whole social care system, a belief that is in accordance with the need to actually review the whole system. As can be seen in the 7th State of the Sector report ICHA Dec 2020 final the majority of private and voluntary providers would want to contribute to improving sufficiency if commissioning was undertaken on a more relational basis than is happening now and with a sharing of business information and risk. Current procurement is experienced by many as being both controlling and disrespectful. Most importantly though is what we see when we look at individual children! When we look at individual referrals what we all to frequently see is them being based on problems and needs with little or no recognition of the child’s strengths and potential. Providers need a rounded picture of the child with granular data that can inform their decision when looking to ‘match’ with current residents.

I am optimistic that the three reviews now taking place will lead to ‘rounded’ conclusions as to what is required. My belief is we need the whole system to work together to meet the needs of what many describe as ‘the most vulnerable in society’. Interestingly the independent sectors of fostering, residential, special schools and adoption are already talking, the challenge is perhaps to bring the whole social care sector into the conversations.


Source: Independent Children’s Homes Association

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