Ofsted calls for stronger oversight of large children’s home providers

Yvette Stanley, Ofsted’s national director for regulation and social care

Ofsted is calling for stronger oversight of large providers as it argues legislation is outdated and does not reflect how the early years and social care sectors operate today.

It has published two research reports on the level of influence early years multiple providers and social care groups have on individual nurseries and children’s homes respectively. Social care groups are providers that own more than one children’s home.

Both reports call for stronger regulatory powers.

Its research in social care found groups have some influence and control over the day-to-day running of their children’s homes: models of care and policies in children’s homes are generally decided by groups and standardised across their settings; they often influence the admissions process, sifting referrals before sending them on to their children’s home managers; and groups often play a significant role when considering whether to end a child’s placement.

However, Ofsted inspection practice reflects the legal responsibility of children’s home managers, who are registered to individual homes, not social care groups. Its report recommends regulatory oversight is needed at both group and individual children’s home levels.

‘Stronger oversight of large providers is vital if we are to make sure children are getting the best deal,’ said Yvette Stanley, Ofsted’s national director for regulation and social care.

‘Current legislation is outdated and doesn’t reflect the early years and social care sectors as they operate today. The upcoming review into children’s social care could be a real opportunity to reform this legislation.’

Ofsted data show there are 277 private companies that own multiple children’s homes. The majority (218) each own five or fewer settings, while the largest 10 companies account for 33% of all private children’s homes.

The social care research drew on evidence from interviews with 11 senior Ofsted colleagues, senior representatives from 10 groups, and questionnaires completed by 47 children’s home managers.

The Independent Children’s Homes Association (ICHA) said: ‘Whilst the ICHA supports any steps designed to improve the lives of the young people in our care and recognise that many aspects of the regulations require review, we would caution that regulation aimed at specific sections of the sector could lead to further divisions with the potential of the regulator running companies by proxy.

‘Nonetheless, we look forward to the final report and its recommendations.’