Closing the gaps on children’s homes: what every child should expect

We need a transformative approach to children’s social care in this country and we need to look at what children’s homes need to provide, from the perspective of the child, says the Children’s Commissioner, Dame Rachel de Souza in a new report on reforming children’s homes. There are key messages for providers of accommodation for young people, professionals working with providers or considering operating in this sector.

The report sets out a policy plan of action focused on the experiences of children living in children’s homes and to outline the “basic expectations every child should be able to hold as to what a home will provide for them”. Seven core expectations are outlined with the focus of ensuring care settings feel like homes rather than institutions, which provide links to family, friends and schools.

The plan does not cover structural changes needed to the system to bring this about, as this was covered in the Children’s Commissioner’s vision paper where four specific recommendations were made for children’s homes.

These covered:

  1. Local and national targets to reduce instability and ensure sufficiency of placements
  2. Reform of section 22G of the Children Act 1989 to create a statutory expectation that local authority sufficiency strategies should confirm how the local authority will meet their stability target
  3. Improved accountability for instability and out of area placements
  4. Reform of section 25 of Children Act 1989 to extend the Secretary of State for Education’s power to ensure sufficiency of welfare places within secure children’s homes

The core expectations

Across each of the core expectations, case studies highlight the issues children in care face – moving from placement to placement to out of area, changing schools and changing social workers. The hope is that these expectations will help re-set care home provision in England, with a renewed focus on local placements.

Here are the seven expectations:

  1. Every child needing a children’s home should find one is available for them as close to home as possible
  2. Every child should be able to trust that their children’s home place will be theirs as long as they need it
  3. Every child should be heard, seen and safe
  4. Every child in a children’s home should be supported to develop and maintain important relationships
  5. Every child in a children’s home should be getting education and mental health care
  6. Every home should be giving children the ability to develop and pursue their interests
  7. Children leaving care should be supported to stay close and linked to their children’s homes


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