Criminal Care? · 12 Sep 2018
Ofsted to publish inspection profile of largest private children’s homes providers
While this blog was on holiday, Ofsted announced it would be publishing an inspection profile of the top 10 largest private children’s homes providers this autumn.
As readers of this blog will know, we are concerned about the lack of oversight of and transparency in the children’s residential care sector, where 73 per cent of active children’s homes in what is a growing sector are now owned and run by private companies for shareholder profits. This market is increasingly being dominated by very large providers. In late summer 2017, 33 large organisations ran 36 per cent of children’s homes, with the largest five owning around 17 per cent.
The largest five private providers own 17 per cent of children’s homes
The decline in local authority-run homes and the increase in privately-run homes has happened with, it seems, a worrying lack of interest from central government. Ministers of varying stripes have been content to allow market forces to shape a sector responsible for looking after some of the most vulnerable children with often complex needs. While we know there is some excellent practice in the private sector, we have heard numerous accounts of poor practice from children and young people, the police and other professionals. We recently reported on an investigation by Buzzfeed which had revealed serious issues in some homes run by the Cambian Group, one of the largest providers of children’s residential care (see our blog of 26 July). A second report published by Buzzfeed at the beginning of August examined the tragic suicide of a boy living in a home owned by the Keys Group in 2010, highlighting many areas of concern about his care.
We are pleased that the inspectorate has identified the need to understand what is happening in the sector and that it is taking the initiative to examine and report on the data available to it.
This latest announcement follows on from a new requirement by Ofsted, introduced in April this year, that children’s homes include data on police call-outs on their pre-inspection questionnaires. This data will be analysed at an exploratory level in the autumn. This combination of initiatives from Ofsted will, we hope, throw light on the children’s homes sector and contribute to our work to end the criminalisation of children in residential care.