Written evidence submitted by the Association of Educational Pscyhologists


The Association of Educational Psychologists (AEP) is the professional association and trade union for the 3,200 Educational Psychologists across the UK. The AEP seeks to promote the overall wellbeing of children and young people (CYP), as well as to ensure that their specific special educational and mental health needs are met.

The educational psychology (EP) profession is a highly skilled and essential element of the nation’s workforce, working collaboratively with many other professionals to provide expertise in responding to and supporting a range of issues related to CYP’s learning and development, including special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), mental health, and emotional and social wellbeing.

Educational psychologists (EPs) work across education, health and social care services, including advising mainstream schools, special schools, alternative provisions, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), colleges, nurseries, children’s homes and others about the developmental needs of all CYP. This includes:

We welcome the Committee’s focus on children’s homes and the care provided here to some of the most vulnerable and emotionally needy CYP. We recommend that EPs are always part of the integrated team that supports and develops services for children in care. When this occurs, approaches and provisions are based on sound psychological principles that deliver outcomes for children. 

The AEP believes that children’s homes play an important role in the care system. We do not believe that children’s homes should only be considered as an option if a family-based placement is unavailable, and recognise that for some CYP, children’s homes are the best solution. For some children, the stability of a children’s home is more beneficial than possible anxiety caused by moves to place them with families.

We believe it is vitally important that CYP are listened to during the process of deciding the most appropriate placement for them. That is not to say that they will make the final decision, or receive the decision they want, but a greater understanding needs to be made of CYP’s emotions, motives and beliefs. The locality of placement should be based on what is in the best interests of the child, not due to a lack of specialist services or places available.

There are many high calibre children’s homes whose staff are incredibly committed, highly trained and value the wellbeing of CYP. Staff in care homes should be valued through a dedicated push to retain and recruit.

Despite the excellent staff that staff do in children’s homes, there is a lack of clinical supervision. EPs interaction with children’s homes is to act as a parenting consultant and provide psychological support for CYP and staff. We believe that this could be enhanced by more frequent visits. In most places it is one day per month but in other areas, we have seen benefits from EPs visiting for one day per week.

We also wish to make a number of recommendations to the Committee, which we detail more within our response, to benefit the support received by CYP in children’s homes. This includes:

We recommend to the Committee, Pillars of Parenting which sets out excellent practice in the support of CYP in children’s homes.

We would be very pleased to provide oral evidence to the Committee regarding our response to this inquiry.




CYP in children’s homes naturally have some level of trauma which can often mean that schooling can be challenging. There are particular problems with access to education for example, including school avoidance.


Conversely, for others, education settings can be their single point of stability. One of our EPs worked with a young man who had 10 different care placements in his childhood but had stayed at the same primary school throughout which was incredibly important for his overall development and security. It was only during his transition to secondary school that behavioural issues arose and eventually the young man went to a special school. This demonstrates the importance of schooling as a source of stability in the child’s life that in turn will lead to better educational outcomes.


We are pleased that in recent years, some local authorities have begun to recognise the importance of the school in providing security and advancing the development of CYP in children’s homes. In these instances, when there is a change in care, there are now attempts to maintain educational placements. We would strongly urge that this continues to be best practice.


Additionally, we see the best educational outcomes when schools and colleges are trained to understand the trauma needs of CYP in care and work closely with staff in homes to account for this. Sometimes children’s homes are blamed for poor educational outcomes because of the way CYP are managed or looked after. From our experience, poor educational outcomes are more as a result of the difficult experiences the CYP has had before their placement and we believe it is unfair to blame the home directly. EPs however can work directly with staff in children’s homes to help to manage this trauma.


Children’s homes do play an important role in providing informal education and for this reason, it is important that staff are appropriately trained to provide this. They will of course support CYP with practical tasks, such as completing homework or they might attend parents evening to receive feedback on their progress, but additionally they have a role in providing emotional support. In this vein, similar to that of Emotional Literacy Support Assistants, we recommend emotional support training would be beneficial to all staff working in children’s homes, as well as continued ongoing support from EP services.


We have seen good practice in Hampshire, of children’s home developing ‘bucket lists’ with their CYP for social activities such as visiting a restaurant or taking a trip via a train. These helped to advance social experiences and their outlook on the world, which cannot always be achieved in school alone.


Our EPs have experienced the commitment and flexibility of staff in children’s homes and the positive impact they can have on CYP and their outcomes. It is vital for this reason that the value of children home staff is recognised, including a strategy to retain and recruit staff. This should focus on a number of areas including:




We believe there must be more integrated working across all services for CYP with special educational needs in care, including EPs, CAMHS, social workers, the local authority and the school.


The virtual school can play a much greater role in ensuring the quality and access to support for SEN CYP in care homes. The head of the virtual school should be given the brief of developing this work, including forming good relationships and partnerships with children’s homes directly, outside of the school context.


For children with SEN, their parents are usually working to ensure they receive the support they need. When you remove the parent figure for CYP in children’s homes, this role is often adopted by the social worker, more so than the staff in the care homes. As there are frequent changes in social worker, CYP in care homes can be forgotten about. We have seen good results when there is consistency in social workers for children with special educational needs in children’s homes.


EPs act as a parenting consultant and in most instances go into children’s homes once per month to provide support around trauma, psychological needs and the needs of the ‘parent’. In Northumberland, EPs have one day per week in children’s homes to provide therapeutic work. We have seen excellent results from this and suggest that one way we can provide additional support is by increasing the amount of EP time that local authorities can provide children’s homes through additional funding.




We have concerns that CYP are unprotected by unregulated provision because of the very fact they are unregulated, meaning there is not the same level of scrutiny being given to the care provided.


Unregulated provision usually provides placements for CYP who may have a wide range of complex emotional needs and have had a breakdown of previous placements so that an urgent move is required. This may sometimes necessitate the consideration of a move to a new unregulated provision in the absence of any other placements a have often found it difficult or unsustainable to stay in a regulated home – where such a placement provides education on the premises the CYP who need the most support can be ‘out of sight and out of mind’ from the responsible local authority. Any such placement should be time limited and regularly reviewed whilst the placement becomes regulated.


There is anecdotal evidence of unregulated provisions which have adopted zero tolerance approaches” to behaviour which are not appropriate for traumatised children and can lead to the involvement of the police. We have seen CYP with the highest needs of quality care, placed in unregulated provision where their needs are not being met and this can lead to worse outcomes and criminalisation.



CYP in children’s homes are particularly at risk of being targeted by criminals. With no parental figure, these children are seen as being easily accessible and it is less likely that someone will be able to intervene to stop them becoming involved with criminal activity. In particular, the use of CYP in county lines drug activity is concerning and poses a particular risk, as well as the sexual exploitation of CYP in children’s homes.


Staff in children’s homes work closely with the police on issues such as drug prevention and grooming but the main challenge for staff is they are unable to stop children from leaving the home. They can only ask them not to leave the home which can result in CYP being vulnerable. In this instance, we again believe that appropriate training of staff can help them to form close relationships with the CYP and this can act as a positive buffer to criminalisation.


Criminalisation is a particular risk at transition stages into adulthood, for this reason, we recommend that all children stay in homes until the age of 18. The cross-Government strategy Keep on Caring’ for foster care leavers is based on needs and not age. It gives the option for foster carers to continue supporting young people up to age of 21, as they transition to independence. It would be incredibly beneficial to CYP if this policy was also extended to children’s homes.



The location of care provision for CYP should be based on their needs, rather than where there are places available for them. We do however recognise the challenge for local authorities in delivering these services.


It is important when deciding on the location of care provision that the child or young person is involved in this discussion too. Whilst the choice may not be made ultimately by them, considering their views ensures that the decision is genuinely person-centred.


For example, it is not beneficial to the CYP to be moved across the country for a placement simply because there are no placements or services available in their local area. We see this happen when CYP who have significant mental health needs require a specialist placement. They can often be moved across the country, leaving their existing support network behind, including existing family with whom they still have contact.


There are some instances however when moving a child further away might be beneficial to them. For example, if family members in the local area are trying to engage with them and this contact is harmful due to criminal activity. In this instance, the CYP themselves may wish to move away from their family, or professionals may decide this is in the best interests for the child’s wellbeing and mental health.  In this instance, we believe it’s then vitally important that there should be a commitment to not move the CYP again, so they can begin to build a network of friends and social activities outside of school. The longer they can be in one place for, the more likely they will be able to find stability and security and ultimately transition effectively long-term to independence.



In some areas of the country, we have seen children’s homes closing as a result of Covid-19. This has often been as a result of insufficient staffing rather than places, due to shielding or self-isolating.


There have also been concerns about how to manage CYP if someone in the children’s home contracts Covid-19.


We have seen variations in data as to whether demand has increased for places in children’s homes. The picture seems to vary across the country.




Kinship carers fall between the gaps and receive little support, for example, they are unable to access professional services such as an EP. We would very much welcome more support for kinship carers when it’s appropriate, including access to the same training and emotional and financial support that foster carers and adoptive parents are able to access. This will help them in providing better care to the child or young person that they are caring for.


Even when there is no prospect of a child returning home, intensive support for families from the children’s home is incredibly important. We believe children’s homes do their best to coach families in having beneficial and meaningful contact with CYP. We recognise that some staff are demonstrating good practice in supporting relationships, even if this is undermined by the families themselves. Facilitating longer-term plans to generate good relationships with birth families, even if they are not living together, is beneficial to a CYP’s mental health, wellbeing and development and this should continue. Some ways in which this happens is through visits to families at the weekend or for a holiday.


As well as maintaining relationships with birth families, we also believe its important for children’s homes to help CYP to develop natural relationships through friendships. CYP can also experience family life through things such as sleepovers with friends.


April 2021