Children’s homes under the spotlight post-Rochdale

Listen out for Radio 4’s The Reporttonight – it has an interesting-sounding (and very topical) report on the safety of children’s homes in light of the Rochdale sexual exploitation case.
Children’s homes have been in the media glare since the high-profile abuse caseand the intensity shows no sign of abating, with the leader of Rochdale council today telling the BBC that children should no longer be sent to care homes in the borough. In a bold statement, Colin Lambert said children’s safety is not being guaranteed because the council cannot control what happens to children in homes who come from outside Rochdale.
“Unless the child is from the Borough of Rochdale we have no say in whether the child should be here, whether the home is providing what it should [and] we get no reports back on how the child is progressing,” Lambert said. He also called the situation “a scar and a disgrace on this country’s record of caring for vulnerable children”.
The article, published ahead of The Report, also refers to an inquiry into Lancashire’s 101 children’s homes that found the council and police do not know enough about private homes in the area. It’s a (nationwide) problem we’ve heard before and it clearly needs to be addressed, especially given the growth of private homes
But the debate so far is lacking a bit of balance, namely the voice of those working in, and for, children’s homes. The Independent Children’s Homes Association said councils and providers need to work together to resolve the problems, warning rising numbers of looked-after children mean there is a greater need than ever for children’s homes and the resources they offer.
An ICHA spokesperson said: “Local authorities are using a market-based approach, driving down margins for providers to unsustainable levels. Providers are frustrated that councils are not stepping forwards as partners in the planning of residential child care.
“Councils have a Sufficiency and Diversity Duty, yet none we know of have completed and published audits of need and provision. As a result councils are not working together to plan [the types of residential care] needed at local, sub-regional, regional and national levels.”