The DfE are considering the creation of an independent body to register staff who work in children’s homes. This independent body would have responsibility for setting and maintaining standards for training, conduct and CPD. They will have the power to enforce these through fitness to practice procedures.
The reason for this is that the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) have recommended this as a measure to better safeguard children in the public care. We want the children’s homes workforce to be recognised professionals and we want to promote children’s safety in care by ensuring unsuitable staff, managers and homes are swiftly removed.
Everyone wants to do what is necessary to keep children safe and the introduction of an independent body may indeed be an effective measure. But is it necessary? Will safeguarding in homes be improved by introducing another set of officials telling homes what they must do? For many social work qualified staff the introduction of the General Social Care Council (GSCC) and then the Health and Care Professionals Council has had no tangible impact on our practice. Instead it provokes a mild irritation and fair degree of resentment when the only communication is the demand for the fee of £190 to renew registration; a fee that continues to rise steadily alongside the £194,000 salary of the Chief Executive.
The challenges of making such a body effective are well known, the GSCC started in 2001 as one of the responses to the death of Victoria Climbie. Now – after the deaths of Baby P, Khyra Ishaq, Daniel Pelka and more – we are replacing the HCPC with Social Work England. After 18 years, can we evidence that children are any safer through the establishment of an independent registering body?
There is a real temptation to create visible systems and structures to ‘fix’ problems. It helps the public feel that something is being done. It feels like heresy to question whether a proposed measure like this is needed. However, those of us in the sector recognise that there are some real practical challenges that homes face in embedding, maintaining and improving a safeguarding culture. Most homes – as evidenced by high numbers of good and outstanding homes – do this well.
Care staff in Scotland and Wales are registered with their version of HCPC. The difference is that the regulations in England and our regulator Ofsted is far more robust. For example, England is the only country that requires an independent person to go into the home each month and report on whether children are safeguarded and their welfare is being promoted. Conducted well, these visits are not just another form of scrutiny but a support that helps homes address potential safeguarding challenges.
Whilst these debates continue, it is essential that providers continually review all aspects of safeguarding and take immediate steps to improve. Whatever the DfE decide, the responsibility for keeping children safe in homes rests with the homes.
See our Training and Events section for details of our Safeguarding Training for Children’s Homes and new dates for our Registered Manager, Responsible Individual training courses.
Quality Standards : The Protection of Children Standard
Children’s Home Regulations 2015