Wednesday, 24 April 2013

The Future of Children’s Homes

All credit to Children’s Minister, Edward Timpson, for aspiring to improve the quality of care in children’s homes, but I found the drift of his recent Daily Telegraph article ( a bit too much rule-focused and a bit short on ideas about how quality will actually be improved, other than a bit about training; and, of course, ordering people to do it.

Some of the new rules are:

  • “… a decision to place a child in care far from their home can only be made by a senior official….”
  • “… a requirement for the council to consult with the local area before they place a child in a home, to satisfy themselves about the quality and location of the home….”
  • “… a duty on homes to notify local councils when children move in from other local authority areas and when they leave the home.”
  • “… a requirement for children’s homes providers to carry out a risk assessment of an area, with the police and local council, before opening a home, with registration being refused or suspended where the area is deemed unsafe.”
  • “… strengthen(ing) the current rules, requiring existing staff in homes to have completed minimum qualifications within a set period of time ….”

For a minister in a government which not so long ago wholeheartedly agreed with Eileen Munro that there are too many rules relating to child protection, Mr Timpson is certainly doing his utmost to demonstrate that the exception proves the .... rule!!

It’s a pity really, because I agree with so much of what he says about the shortfalls in residential care for children and young people, and I applaud his desire to do something about it; but more procedures are not the solution.

You don’t need to read many pages of an introductory textbook on quality management to understand that the quality of complex services is never likely to be improved by throwing the rulebook at it. The quality of the service children receive is a function of the dedication and motivation of the people who care for them. And motivation and dedication do not come out of procedural manuals  - they come from commitment and inspiration.