Strong leadership and a stable workforce are fundamental for children’s homes to thrive. We know that there are many committed leaders and staff delivering excellent care across children’s residential care. However, we know that high levels of staff turnover and not enough experienced staff continue to be real problems, meaning some of the most vulnerable children are still being left without the consistent level of care they need. More recently, I have been particularly concerned about the impact of high staff turnover, most notably of the registered manager, on the care delivered in recently opened children’s homes.
The early days of a new home can be challenging as staff settle into new roles, teams establish themselves and, most importantly, children come to live in the new home. That’s why we have started to strengthen our oversight, for example by asking new homes to tell us when children start to live there so we can time our inspections appropriately.
In some new homes, we have also noticed changes to the manager and Responsible Individual soon after registration. This can leave a home fragile without the consistent leadership that is so essential to maintain quality of care. For that reason, we may bring forward inspections whenever a registered manager leaves a new home within the first six months of registration so we quickly establish that children’s care is getting the oversight and attention it needs.
All prospective providers should be in conversation with the local children’s social care leaders, so they understand local workforce supply and the availability of services for children. This includes access to local schools, including special schools, in addition to health and mental health provision. Considering these things from the outset will help new homes provide high-quality continuity of care that children need.
More broadly, our research and inspection activities tell us that the providers of good and outstanding homes regard their staff as their most valuable asset. They recognise the importance of safe recruitment and retention, pay their staff well and invest in their development through effective training and regular supervision. They create a culture of a work/life balance, which means that staff come to work feeling valued and confident to carry out their work.
I strongly encourage anyone applying to register a children’s home to read our top tips blog, to gain a better understanding of the preparation and commitment that is needed.