Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted)
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‘Lack of collective knowledge’ on needs of children in care

There is a ‘lack of collective knowledge’ around the needs of children in care, according to a study by Ofsted, published today.

The report ‘Why do children go into children’s homes?’ draws on responses to surveys and discussions between inspectors and children placed in children’s homes, staff and others to provide insights into the diverse and complex needs of children who go into children’s homes, and the life experiences that led to them living there.

The report calls for further research to be done, including a national audit of children needs, to provide better understanding of the experiences of children in care, and of the complexities of sufficiency in children’s social care.

The study looked at the experiences of 113 children in care and found that their needs were very diverse, and there was usually more than one reason they were living in a children’s home. Two thirds of the children in the study had entered a children’s home because of some form of interruption in their previous care, including:

  • foster placement breakdown (41%)
  • children’s home breakdown (15%)
  • family breakdown (12%)

Although a children’s home placement had not been the original care plan for just under half of children taking part in the study, around three quarters of these children were found to be well matched to their home.

Of the 82 children found to be well matched, 36 had some form of foster care as their original care plan. The fact that they were doing well in their home demonstrates how children’s homes are able to adapt to children’s different needs, challenges the commonly held assumption that foster care is a better option for children in care.

Yvette Stanley, Ofsted’s National Director for Social Care, said:

This report confirms how important it is that we have a better understanding, at a strategic level, of children’s needs so we can better plan for their futures.

I’m sure these findings will be valuable to wider conversations and future research on sufficiency – which is about the provision of the right care, in the right place, at the right time, to help children in need of care achieve the best outcomes.


This report draws on surveys of children, children’s home staff and other stakeholders across 83 children’s homes in 2019. The findings are not necessarily representative of all children who were resident in children’s homes.

The report is part of a wider project looking at sufficiency and the diversity of needs children’s homes try to meet. Our next report will look into the services children’s homes provide and what needs they are able to meet.

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