Written evidence submitted by the Independent Children’s Homes Association (ICHA)

The Independent Children’s Homes Association Ltd response to the

House of Common’s Education Committee call for written evidence

as part of its inquiry into children's homes


The Independent Children’s Homes Association is the membership organisation for providers of residential child care across the private, voluntary and public sectors.  Currently our membership represents two thirds of registered children’s homes in England and Wales.  ICHA supports its members through regular regional and national meetings and works proactively with partner agencies to ensure the best possible services are provided to what can only be described as one of the most vulnerable groups in society.

The House of Commons Education Committee has invited written submissions addressing the following areas:

The ICHA is pleased to respond to these headings but also draws the Committees attention to reports recently supplied to both the Care Review and the CMA Study.

  1. Educational outcomes for children and young people in children’s homes, including attainment and progression to education, employment and training destinations.

In the 1990’s Sonia Jackson, Peter Sandiford and others raised the issue of educational attainment in children’s homes and this resulted in both good practice guides and Quality Protects targets. Latterly the National Minimum Standards and Quality Standards for Children’s Homes has ensured education is a key consideration by Ofsted when inspecting registered children’s homes.

When looking at the achievements of children who are living in a children’s home it is important to acknowledge their care journeyOfsted’s report “The education of children living in children’s homes”[1] Feb 21 found that 47% of children in children’s homes have an EHCP compared to the national average of 3% This is not because they have been disadvantaged by coming into care but demonstrates that these children are at a massive educational disadvantage from the outset.

Further to this, 57% were in special schools and more children in children’s homes attended schools that were neither good nor outstanding than the general population. Furthermore,Although less than 1% of all state-funded, mainstream-educated children attended PRUs nationally, the figure was 18% in our sample. Children in children’s homes make up less than 0.1% of the state-funded school population, but they represent more than 3% of the PRU population.” (The education of children living in children’s homes. Feb 2021).

ICHA contends that the disparity in educational outcomes does not happen because the children are in children’s homes, it is because their formative childhood years have resulted in poor attendance, lack of ability and often, increased exclusions and suspensions. 

Children often enter children’s homes as a ‘last resort’ by which time, their trust in education has decreased and their ability to overcome their shortfalls in comparison to peer groups is often unsurmountable. Nonetheless, care staff do promote and support education and this is evidenced in inspection reports.

Interestingly, according to Ofsted, children’s home companies also provide some excellent education provision: “The proportions of children attending good or outstanding educational providers were higher in the Outcomes First Group Limited, Keys Educational Services Limited and Witherslack Group Ltd schools than in the sample of 2,600 children overall.”


  1. The quality of and access to, support for children and young people in children’s homes, including support for those with special educational needs, and the support available at transition points.

80% of all children’s homes were graded as Good or Outstanding in 2020[2]. A further 18% required improvement to be good. According to Ofsted’s SCIFF 2021[3], RI equates to a home thatis not yet delivering good help and care for children so that they receive positive experiences and make good progress. There are no serious or widespread failures that result in their welfare not being safeguarded and promoted.” Whilst this is not as desirable as good or outstanding accommodation, it is safe and meets standards and with guidance, should improve.

This suggests that children are being well supported in relation to care and welfare in the vast majority of registered children’s homes across all types of provision.  What we do not have, and ICHA would argue is most definitely required if we are to develop confidence in our ‘care system’, is evidence based impact measurement.  The only example of which that ICHA is aware of and that has received full randomised control trialling and peer review is the Transformational Collaborative Outcomes Management (TCOM) TCOM England - It's time to get assessment right in children's social care.OOC - The Centre for Outcomes of Care approach and assessment tools (primarily the Child & Adolescent Needs & Strengths (CANS) assessment) is already successfully used and proven in a growing number of countries worldwide but, so far, not taken up in England. This simple, shared vision approach addresses the most complex problems in the care system. It is an important opportunity for the sector in England and the vulnerable people we serve.

The Committee raises the issue of transition points.  For the child in care this is not confined to moving from junior to secondary school and then to university and leaving home but includes the all too frequent move of placement.  In a recent ‘snapshot’ audit of ICHA providers respondents identified that the average number of previous care moves for a child in their homes was eight with some having more than 20!  As adults we know the impact of a move of house, for a child who has experienced extremes of early life trauma we can not imagine the impact of so many moves.  Perhaps most sadly is the growing trend of local authorities to move children at, or even on, their 16th birthday into unregulated 16+ provision despite it being recognised that they have ongoing care needs.  The ICHA is pleased to note that this is an area of concern to the current government and urges a speedy response.


  1. The use and appropriateness of unregulated provision

The ICHA does not support the use of unregulated provision. Indeed it would advocate that local authorities carry out due diligence on homes adjudged to be requiring improvement and place there instead, so children’s care can be properly monitored.  

We welcome the Government’s decision to stop placements for under 16s and support their plans to bring in registration and regulation for 16+ provision.  We do recognise that for many children there is a need for different quality standards for children transitioning into the adult world than are allowed through the Children’s Homes Quality Standards but they are still children and the state has a responsibility for ensuring that 16+ care is still administered by quality standards.


  1. Criminalisation of children in children’s homes.

Children’s homes are particularly skilled at safeguarding children, as evidenced by the majority of inspection reports.

In 2018, The Howard League reported that “The proportion of children living in a children’s home who have been formally criminalised has fallen from 15 per cent to 10 per cent between 2014 and 2018, with the greatest fall – three per cent – seen over the last year.”[4] Further to this there is a recognition in the report that the data collection on criminalisation is inadequate and the reasons for convicting children are not well documented.

Children often offend outside the home, but the available data does not specify the origin of the crime. Equally, some children are also arrested and charged for assault on staff, the degree and seriousness of which is unknown-and some staff have been seriously injured in the course of their work. Whilst there are undoubtably times when charges may not have been the most appropriate course of action, initiatives such as the Philomena Protocol[5], the National Protocol[6] and more local initiatives such the development of MOPAC’s protocol[7] have all contributed to a better understanding of the management of incidents from all sectors.


  1. The sufficiency of places in children’s homes, and the regional location of homes

The numbers of children’s homes have increased steadily over the past decade but the number of beds has not kept pace. Ofsted’s figures for 2020 report a 7% increase in homes but only a 1% increase in beds in the 2019-20 figures.

The rise in the number of places did not keep pace with the increase in the number of homes. This is mainly caused by new children’s homes being smaller than those that close. The average number of places for a new children’s home was 3.4, while the average for a closing home was 5.1.[8]The consistent pattern over the last 5 years has been of homes increasing at a greater rate than places. While the number of all children’s homes increased by 19% between March 2015 and March 2020, the number of places increased by 3% over the same period.”

Nonetheless, the numbers of children being placed in children’s homes has also grown. In March 2011, 4,840[9] were reported to be placed in children’s homes. In 2020, this had risen to nearer 7,000.

Regulation has undoubtably contributed to sufficiency issues:

This has led to a shortage in available beds and arguably an increase in the use of unregulated accommodation. The solution can only come through closer relationships between local authorities and providers where knowledge of each other enables better forecasting and placement planning, thereby avoiding the last minute ‘Friday afternoon’ frantic search for placements.


The regional location of homes would suggest that availability of housing stock, appropriateness of the type of stock (ie often larger properties) and cost continue to play a significant role in the national distribution of children’s homes. Without innovative co-production, incentives or guaranteed placements through initiative such as block contracts, this picture is unlikely to alter in the near future.

A further significant barrier to sufficiency is the difficulty in finding registered managers.  It is ICHA’s belief that this is compounded by wider workforce issues.  Residential child care is not perceived by many as a career pathway.  Unlike other professions such as nursing, social work or indeed plumbing, it does not have its own professional body with the only registration being at the point of becoming a registered manager.  In Wales all care staff are registered at the point of completing their induction, it is our belief that this should be introduced in England thereby providing a career pathway through from entering the profession through to leadership roles and academia.


  1. The Impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, including the extent to which this might increase the demand for places in children’s homes.

The Covid-19 pandemic highlighted the lack of understanding about the role and function of children’s homes amongst the wider community. The application of test and trace and PHE restrictions has been varied and inconsistent. However, homes have remained open and staff have been resilient.

During this time, the ICHA has been surveying our members weekly and found that a proportion of our children were reported to have become calmer, accessed more online education and some attained better educational outcomes than in the classroom environment. Providers speculated that this was due to a lack of pressure and a reduction in social engagement which is often stressful for this cohort of children.

As a high proportion of our children have EHCPs and access SEN support: “Nationally, for those attending state-funded educational provision, around three quarters of children living in children’s homes had an EHCP or were receiving special educational needs support”[11]. These children therefore continued attending their schools where possible. Furthermore, the reduction in classroom sizes and potentially an increased availability of teachers resulted in providers reporting good attendance throughout the lockdowns.

The referral rate has fluctuated throughout the pandemic with providers reporting significant drops at the beginning of each lockdown. As yet, we have not seen a massive upturn, but providers are reporting more new referrals coming through. A high proportion of those received during lockdown were for children needing to move placements and many were repeat referrals.

It has been suggested that once children are again more visible, referrals will increase although this has not yet been born out following the national return to school.

Although schools have returned, a number of providers have said that their local authority support is less than prior to the pandemic with many council offices remaining closed. It is likely that until these are fully operational, we won’t begin to see a true reflection in levels of referrals.


  1. The support available for kinship carers, and for children in homes to maintain relationships with their birth families

Maintaining relationships is important for many children in public care, we know a significant proportion return to live with their birth families when they leave fostering and residential provision. 

Objectives are planned when a child is placed and family contact is a key consideration as is the therapeutic support the child requiresWhat is less frequently agreed is the involvement of the local authority social worker in providing therapeutic support to the family, with the result that the child ‘moves on’ but the family remains entrenched in the behaviours that led to the child’s removal in the first place.  Rather than operating in the traditional silos that are all too common we need to work in collaboration to ensure this does not happen.  The specific roles of commissioning and placement specialisms as distinct from a ‘joined up’ system is surely a contributing factor.

Undoubtedly work with the family can be hindered where children are placed at distance from the home, but this does not lessen the need for it to be prioritised and perhaps even more emphasis put on the work of maintaining contact and reunification.

Assumptions are made about residential provision not wanting to support the child once they have left.  We are not aware of the evidence to support this as anecdotally many members of ICHA talk about the ongoing support they provide well into a child’s adulthood.


19th April 2021

May 2021


ICHA response to the House of Common’s Education Committee call for

written evidence as part of its inquiry into children's homes               19.04.2021                                                         pg. 6

[1] The education of children living in children's homes - GOV.UK (

[2] Main findings: children’s social care in England 2020 - GOV.UK (

[3] Social Care Common Inspection Framework (SCCIF) March 2021

[4] Know-your-numbers.pdf (

[5] The Philomena Protocol | Humberside Police

[6] National protocol on reducing criminalisation of looked-after children - GOV.UK (

[7] MOPAC Q3 Report 2020-21 | London City Hall

[8] Main findings: children’s social care in England 2020 - GOV.UK (


[10] Children’s social care in England: 2019-20 Underlying Data. Ofsted

[11] The education of children living in children's homes - GOV.UK (