The Prime Minister and Education Secretary Nicky Morgan have announced a “root and branch review” of children’s residential care, to help put an end to a life of disadvantage for some of the most vulnerable children in care.
The independent review – led by the former Head of the Prison and Probation Services in England and Wales and CEO of children’s charity Barnardo’s, Sir Martin Narey – will look at which children should be in residential care, how it can be improved and how government can achieve the very best for every single child in their care.
Announcing the review at Prime Minister’s questions, David Cameron said:
“We need to make sure that our residential care homes are doing the best possible job they can.
“That is why I can announce that I have asked the former Chief Executive of Barnardo’s, Sir Martin Narey, to conduct an independent review of children’s residential care, reporting to the Education Secretary and myself, so we can take every possible step to make sure these children get the best start in life.”
Secretary of State for Education, Nicky Morgan, said:
“I am crystal clear that only the very best should be acceptable for children and young people in care.
“I want to shine a spotlight on what works, identify barriers to success – and end those practices that are holding these children back from a life full of opportunity.
“It is our moral duty to create a care system where all children have access to high-quality care that meets their specific needs. I am confident that Sir Martin’s review will help make this ambition a reality.”
Sir Martin’s review into residential care homes will look at the role of children’s homes within the care system, as well as exploring when and for which children homes should be used.
The review will also investigate what works within residential care – and how to improve outcomes for the young people who live in them, as well as what improvements could be made to the way that residential care homes are commissioned, delivered, regulated and inspected.
There are currently over 8,000 children and young people in children’s homes up and down the country, with councils spending over £1 billion a year.
However, research shows that these children are less likely to do well at school, are more likely to be absent or excluded, and are more likely to take part in risky behaviour than their classmates – in part, because of the past neglect and abuse they have suffered.
Sir Martin said:
“I am delighted to accept this commission. Some of the best social work I’ve seen has taken place in residential homes, carried out by some outstanding staff.
“And yet there are doubts about whether we use residential care for the right children – and frequent disquiet about children’s transitions to adulthood.
“I am anxious to hear from staff, children, care leavers and those with experience of this sector.”
Since leaving Barnardo’s in 2011, Sir Martin has advised the government on its adoption reforms and other child care matters, including the reform of social work education.
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