Press release

Children’s residential care review to transform lives

Prime Minister and Education Secretary announce root-and-branch review of children’s residential care.

Tiny hand holding an adult's hand

The Prime Minister, David Cameron and Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan have today (28 October 2015) announced a comprehensive review into children’s residential care to help put an end to a life of disadvantage for some of the most vulnerable children in care.

There are currently over 8,000 children and young people in children’s homes up and down the country, with councils spending over £1 billion a year. Yet these vulnerable children are less likely to do well at school, more likely to be absent or excluded, and more likely to take part in risky behaviour than their classmates - in part because of the past neglect and abuse they have suffered, and at a great cost to the taxpayer.

The independent review - headed up by Sir Martin Narey, former Head of the Prison and Probation Services in England and Wales and CEO of children’s charity Barnardo’s - will look at which children should be in residential care, how it can be improved and how government can achieve the very best for every single child in their care.

Announcing the review at Prime Minister’s questions, the Prime Minister said:

We need to make sure that our residential care homes are doing the best possible job they can.

That is why I can announce that I have asked the former Chief Executive of Barnardo’s, Sir Martin Narey, to conduct an independent review of children’s residential care, reporting to the Education Secretary and myself, so we can take every possible step to make sure these children get the best start in life.

Secretary of State for Education, Nicky Morgan, said:

I am crystal clear that only the very best should be acceptable for children and young people in care.

I want to shine a spotlight on what works, identify barriers to success and end those practices that are holding these children back them from a life full of opportunity.

It is our moral duty to create a care system where all children have access to high-quality care that meets their specific needs. I am confident that Sir Martin’s review will help make this ambition a reality.

Sir Martin’s comprehensive review into residential care homes will look at:

  • the role of children’s homes within the care system, exploring when - and for which children - homes should be used
  • what works within residential care, and how to improve outcomes for the young people who live in them
  • what improvements could be made to the way that residential care homes are commissioned, delivered, regulated and inspected

Sir Martin said:

I am delighted to accept this commission. Some of the best social work I’ve seen has taken place in residential homes, carried out by some outstanding staff. And yet there are doubts about whether we use residential care for the right children and frequent disquiet about children’s transitions to adulthood.

I am anxious to hear from staff, children, care leavers and those with experience of this sector.

Since leaving Barnardo’s in 2011, Sir Martin has advised the government on its adoption reforms and other children’s issues, including the reform of social work education.

Today’s announcement is the latest step in the government’s programme to improve the outcomes of children in residential care so that all children have the best possible start in life - no matter their background or starting point.

We have:

  • introduced brand-new quality standards for children’s homes, so for the first time ever, homes will be required to clearly demonstrate just how they are supporting children to achieve positive outcomes
  • changed the regulations so new homes only open in safe areas, run by competent providers, and ensuring homes already open in less safe areas demonstrate that they can keep children safe
  • improved the quality of care by requiring staff and managers in homes to be suitably qualified within a strict timeframe
  • worked with Ofsted to strengthen their inspection and intervention powers so ‘good’ is the only acceptable standard, and unsafe homes close unless they can evidence swift improvement
  • put much greater information on the quality and location of children’s homes into the public domain

Notes to editors

  1. The review is due to report in spring 2016.
  2. Read the terms of reference and call for evidence.

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Published 28 October 2015