Complaints to regulator about children’s homes providers rise by a fifth

Ofsted says the number of complaints received about providers of children’s homes in 2020 to 2021 was 18% higher than the previous year, with complaints made about a quarter of all homes in England.

13/07/21

Complaints to regulator about children’s homes providers rise by a fifth

New data released from Ofsted has shown that it received 932 complaints about 629 providers in 2020 to 2021, 18% more than the previous year.

The children’s social care inspectorate said this figure is an increase on the number of complaints received in the previous two years – with 788 complaints received in 2019 to 2020, and 813 complaints received in 2018 to 2019.

The inspectorate said it received complaints about a quarter of all homes, in line with the previous two years, and says it is carrying out work exploring the reasons for complaints and hopes to discuss these in its Annual Report.

Ofsted also received 169 child protection notifications over the course of the year. This is higher than the number received in 2019 to 2020 (101 notifications) but in line with figures for 2018 to 2019 (166 notifications).

Of all 1,100 total complaints and notifications, four in five (79%) had one or more ‘actions’ recorded by the end of March 2021, the majority of which were a ‘provider-led investigation’ (319), continued monitoring by allocated inspector (311), or a ‘key line of enquiry for next inspection’ (309). 134 complaints prompted a monitoring visit from the inspectorate, and 77 required compliance and enforcement action.

Between 1 April 2020 and 31 March 2021, Ofsted carried out 63 restrictions of accommodation, and 44 suspensions of providers.

The 63 restrictions of accommodation occurred in 54 different children’s homes, with nine homes receiving multiple restrictions of accommodation in-year. One of these homes was later cancelled by Ofsted.

The 44 suspensions occurred in 36 different children’s homes during 2020 to 2021, with eight homes receiving multiple suspensions in-year. Of these 36 homes, one was cancelled in-year by Ofsted, 16 resigned and 9 were still suspended on 31 March 2021. The remaining 10 homes were active on 31 March 2021.

Almost 60% of all types of children’s homes received a monitoring and/or assurance visit in the last year. However, due to COVID-19, Ofsted did not complete any graded inspections of social care providers or local authorities during 2020 to 2021, meaning half of providers remained judged ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’.

Out of the 12 million children living in England, just under 400,000 (3%) are in the social care system at any one time, with more than 80,000 children in care.

The private sector makes up 83% of all children’s homes in England, with 78% of children placed in homes run by the private sector.

The data also showed a shortage of secure children’s homes across England, with just 13 homes operating as of 31 March 2021. When operating at full capacity, they offered just 234 places.

Ofsted said the pandemic impacted on the staffing of secure children’s homes, with staff becoming ill or having to self-isolate. This meant that secure children’s homes could not look after as many children, as they must operate with sufficient staffing levels to provide safe care for children.

The number of secure children’s homes were not split evenly across England, with no secure children’s homes in London or the West Midlands, but four in the North East, Yorkshire and the Humber region.

“There is a shortage of secure children’s homes in England. Since 2002, 16 secure children’s homes have closed,” the report stated. “At any one time, around 25 children each day are waiting for a secure children’s home place and around 20 are placed by English LAs in Scottish secure units due to the lack of available places.”

“The limited number of secure children’s homes places means that, even when children get a place, they will likely end up living far away from home.”

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