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BASW England response to Narey residential care report

BASW England has welcomed Sir Martin Narey’s call for social workers to play an integral role in residential care. Sir Martin Narey’s report, Children's Residential Care in England, was commissioned by the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Education in October 2015 and examines the role of residential care within the wider care system. Responding to the report’s publication, BASW England Manager Maris Stratulis said: “BASW England is pleased that children’s residential care has received this focus from the Government and agrees that this report could help improve such provision for some of our most vulnerable children. BASW England welcomes recommendations that mirror issues raised in its submission to Sir Martin Narey’s independent review of children’s residential care, while remaining a critical friend at this time of social work reform.

“To change the perception of residential care, we need to improve its status and elevate it both as a career choice and as positive choice for many children. Without detracting from the excellent work being done by non-social work staff, we appreciate Sir Martin Narey’s recognition of the need for qualified social workers to play an integral part of the residential care workforce. However, the report limits this to managers, whereas we would like to see this extended to a number of staff in non-managerial roles. The idea supported by BASW England to consider a degree qualification such as that available in Scotland has been rejected, with suggestions of staff needing caring qualities over academic abilities, an opposing view to that presented for child and family social workers by the Chief Social Worker. The report suggests recommendations to decrease the criminalisation of children; increase staff confidence in setting boundaries for children and the use of restraint. If taken through a formal qualification such as the Scottish degree, and provided with the knowledge of international theories and training in skills and methods, the staff may well be able to use alternative methods to avoid such situations.

“Social workers play an important role in the lives of all Looked After Children and we need to enhance care planning by social workers, who need to be given the time and training to do it. Employers have a duty of care to provide support for staff and we are surprised this has not been mentioned in the report. So too should staff’s views about the best interests of the child be respected. If a manager is a qualified social worker and is supported by a trained and skilled team with significant knowledge of all the other residents, their decisions based around the child should be accepted and not overruled by the owner. We agree with the recommendation that students undergoing social work training should have a placement within a children’s residential home. Commissioners also need enhanced training and they too should preferably be social work qualified.

“Recommendations relating to Ofsted are concerning as BASW England would not like to see a split in their inspection processes from one service to another. Consistent quality assurance for all children’s services is a must. There appears to be a move toward the regionalisation of commissioning and there needs to be proper public accountability at each local level if this is to be the case. We agree with the recommendation for more strategic commissioning and this should include local and regional development of residential care to prevent distant placements that are likely to break local links for children, unless there are safeguarding issues that means it is better for the child to be placed away from their home town. We support the use of the Children’s Social Care Innovation fund for testing alternative services within the voluntary sector but remain mindful of the concerns about Clause 15 of the Children and Social Work Bill which has the potential to reduce regulation and the Government needs to thoroughly review this rather than taking a piecemeal approach.

"As a member of the Alliance for Children in Care and Care Leavers, BASW has joined in campaigning for equality for all children leaving care. The suggested provision of ‘Staying Close’ as an option to equalise services offered to all looked after children is welcomed and it is hoped this is a positive choice offered to all children leaving residential care, with all the necessary funding and resources. BASW England welcomes any process that will attempt to change the culture of residential care for children and the recommended creation of a Residential Care Leadership Board may well be a vehicle to start this process. Hopefully past and present users of children’s residential care will be included and be able to shape future services.

"Sir Martin Narey’s acknowledgement of the historical abuse in children's homes, including the Kincora Boys Home in Belfast, offers a reminder to the profession that we must never be complacent, or complicit. We must always listen and act upon what children tell us".