12 children’s homes help to change the lives of children for the better

2 Mar 2011 10:07 AM

Today Ofsted publishes Outstanding children’s homes, a report highlighting 12 homes that have excelled in helping improve the lives of children and young people in their care.

The children’s homes selected represent the broad and diverse types of provision across the country. What makes them exceptional is their consistently outstanding performance. Of the 1,439 homes inspected, only 35 succeeded in being judged outstanding at each inspection for three consecutive years.

A characteristic that unites these homes is their highly effective leadership. Managers are visible, inclusive and interact frequently with staff and young people alike. Leaders of these homes have a vision and purpose which is shared and supported by staff.

Welcoming the report, Christine Gilbert, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, said:

'Young people living in children’s homes are some of the most vulnerable in the country and it is important that the care they receive is of a consistently high standard. However, inspection shows that too many establishments fluctuate in quality from one year to the next.

This report shows that it is possible to provide the very best for children year after year and it is essential that others learn from the outstanding practice it highlights. The key to the success of these children’s homes is appointing and developing the right people. Good staff have such an impact. They establish good relationships with the children and young people in their care, have the highest expectations of them and do all they can to support their development and their confidence. It is important we give recognition to the managers and staff in these outstanding children’s homes for all their hard work and commitment.'

The report found that the right staff are key to a successful children’s home and recruitment, induction and training are vital factors. While experience and qualifications are important, managers did not necessarily look for the most highly qualified staff or those with the longest experience. What was important was that they shared the vision of the home, showed a passion for the work and could quickly establish a strong positive rapport with their children.

Continuity of staffing was essential in helping children develop meaningful and lasting attachments to adults. Maintaining staff stability was encouraged when managers included and supported staff in the implementation of improvements. Holding staff to account also played a key role in developing a culture of continuous improvement and consistency in systems and practice.

Placement and induction of children to the homes also played a crucial role in ensuring children were placed in the right home to meet their needs and enable them to excel.

However, the defining hallmark of quality was the importance placed on the experience and feedback of children and young people who live in the homes. One manager said: ‘Young people are our most important inspectors’. As a young person put it: ‘Staff always ask young people about their views on life in the home. We are always being consulted about all sorts of things - trips, visits, holidays’.

Managers and staff in all the homes visited had high expectations for children in their care and actively saw building young people’s aspirations as an intrinsic part of their role. Education was a high priority. This was often clearly expressed as a minimum requirement that all young people must be in some form of education, employment or training. As one young person says in the report: ‘The home has high expectations and because we care about the staff we obviously want to please them.’

Preparing young people to play a full and successful role in the adult world was a vital part of all the homes’ vision. Homes put plans into place to develop young people’s resilience and independent living skills. One short-break home had seen 100 of their young people pass through the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme.

The report provides recommendations, including that the Department for Education considers systematic ways in which the experience and skills of leaders in consistently outstanding children’s homes could be used to improve standards across the residential care sector. Local authorities should also analyse and track how well individual children’s homes support better outcomes for children in care and consider this information when making placements and commissioning services.

Notes for Editors

1. Outstanding children’s homes can be found on the Ofsted website at www.ofsted.gov.uk/publications/100228.

Ofsted inspects all children’s homes twice a year. In addition, the Children’s Rights Director, based in Ofsted, carries out an annual survey of the views of looked after children and young people about their care.

The 12 children’s homes selected to be part of this survey differed considerably in size. Four provided care to children with a wide range of needs, three were specialist homes providing care for young people with specifically defined needs, and five were homes providing either full-time or short-break care for children with severe learning difficulties and/or disabilities. In total, these 12 children’s homes could provide accommodation at any one time for 69 children and young people, although not all the homes were full to their capacity at the time of the inspector’s visit.

Homes offering short-breaks comprise around 10% of the children’s homes that have been inspected for three years running, but account for six out of the 35 homes found to be consistently outstanding. Seven of the 12 homes were managed by local authorities; the rest were independently managed or part of an independent company. Of the 35 children’s homes which have been judged consistently outstanding 22 are privately run, 12 are run by local authorities and one is a voluntary sector provision. These are similar proportions to those found across all children’s homes, of which 29% are run by local authorities and 54% are privately run.

2. Around 6,000 children and young people in England live in children’s homes. These are some of the most vulnerable children in the country. They represent around 10% of the total population of looked after children, the large majority of whom live with foster families. Children who live in children’s homes are normally those whose needs cannot be met effectively within foster care or who would benefit from the specialist or structured care a residential placement offers. Many young people arrive in residential care having experienced a number of disruptions to, or changes of, placement.

3. The Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted) regulates and inspects to achieve excellence in the care of children and young people, and in education and skills for learners of all ages. It regulates and inspects childcare and children's social care, and inspects the Children and Family Court Advisory Support Service (Cafcass), schools, colleges, initial teacher training, work-based learning and skills training, adult and community learning, and education and training in prisons and other secure establishments. It assesses council children’s services, and inspects services for looked after children, safeguarding and child protection.

4. Media can contact the Ofsted Press Office through 020 7421 6574 or via Ofsted's enquiry line 0300 1231231 between 8.30am - 6.30pm Monday - Friday. Out of these hours, during evenings and weekends, the duty press officer can be reached on 07919 057359.