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Proposal for Children in Care to be Housed Closer to their Families.

EHP Consultancy

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Proposal for Children in Care to be Housed Closer to their Families.

Ministers are to pledge that children taken into care in England will be placed close to their family and friends rather than being housed hundreds of miles away, under what is described as “an ambitious overhaul of the struggling social services system.” However, they fail to recognise that many children are placed away from the family home for safeguarding reasons. Also, the children are placed in different local authority areas due to the shortage of provisions. The latter would be helped considerably by local planning offices in some areas approving applications to open new homes, rather than blocking them; the postcode lottery for approvals demonstrates inconsistency across the country.

It’s likely the government will give the green light for local authorities to form regional co-ops to try to give them more leverage to drive down fees. However, it’s difficult to see how this may be possible. When the housing stock becomes full and the demand continues to increase, in basic economics, this might usually lead to an increase in costs. Look at the competition for rental property in London for example.

The government also says it wants to put “family-like” placements at the heart of the care system, and proposes to provide more support for kinship care arrangements, where a child unable to be looked after by its parents will be placed with a relative or close family friend. There are many concerns about such an arrangement, for example safeguarding and any financial incentivisation of an arrangement that is open to abuse. Surely if this was possible, for the right reasons, such arrangements would naturally have happened?

While we don’t deny there may be some providers that are placing income over quality of care (although we’re not aware of any), those critics of private sector funding and ‘profits’ need a more balanced view. The cost of each bed space is shared with local authorities in a detailed breakdown – costs increasing significantly as children’s homes are affected by rising energy costs like every other home. Ofsted look for contingency planning to enable the phased closure of a home so the children have time to find appropriate other placements; this requires the provider to hold some ongoing financial contingency to continue to meet commitments until the home is closed. Finally, investors need to be repaid – or you remove investment from the marketplace and decrease the number of new homes – making the problem even worse.

The ethical management by providers to run homes at less than 100% occupancy is rarely highlighted. This means that providers will run the home, at pretty much the same costs, until the referral is an appropriate one – including compatibility with other children. Does this sound like profiteering?

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