childcare facilities get a boost
A new Ofsted report called for need-specific childcare planning while placing UK children with complex needs in children's homes across the country as many 9 in 10 local UK authorities can't find a suitable home for them, making them wait for years. GOV.UK

UK children with complex needs are finding it hard to survive as local UK authorities are struggling to place them in suitable homes, according to a new study conducted by Ofsted.

According to an Ofsted report published on January 16, most local authorities in the UK are struggling to find homes for children with complex needs. 9 out of 10 local UK authorities have faced this issue which is resulting in the children waiting for years to get a home.

The study further revealed how most UK children with complex needs are living alone with a high number of staff in the absence of adequate homes to place them. This has increased the risk of isolation which could lead to their mistreatment, said the report.

The report titled 'How local authorities and children's homes can achieve stability and permanence for children with complex needs' underlines the common practice of local authorities in the UK and homes working together which results in good experiences for children.

Ofsted did this study based on case studies and a national survey of local authorities along with children's home providers in the UK to understand the extent of the problem. The result was a shocking revelation that UK children with complex needs often have to wait months to be placed in a home, sometimes years.

Some local authorities are even placing children in homes they don't want to use as unregistered placements. Children who are marked as a risk to themselves or others are often not given the choice to pick the homes they want to be placed in.

In such a circumstance, the Ofsted report has called for greater strategic oversight from the children's residential sector so that homes can be opened in the right locations and meet the needs of the children.

The report further said that children with complex needs living alone in homes with a high number of staff shouldn't be the default option for childcare planning as it can harm them, making them prone to isolation and mistreatment.

UK children with complex needs require tailored solutions

The Ofsted report also expressed concern that certain broadly practised terminology might be hindering the placement process. The "complex needs" term is often misused to categorise children into unintentional groups where the needs of the children vary. A shift in the way this umbrella term is used to describe children is necessary to address their specific needs, said the report.

According to the study, the correct usage of the term can enhance communication and information sharing between children's homes and local authorities, ultimately resulting in better placements.

The report highlighted cases in which the child care homes have well-planned moves at a suitable pace for individual child consistency supported through the right education service instilling a sense of belonging as they knew that the staff wouldn't give up on them and it is their long-term home.

Expressing concern for children's stability, His Majesty's Chief Inspector of Education, Children's Services and Skills, Sir Martyn Oliver, said: "All children deserve to feel secure and well-cared for. This is not always the case for children in care, particularly those with multiple needs.

"As this report shows, local authorities are increasingly struggling to find homes that can meet these children's individual needs.

"There are sector-wide challenges with recruiting and retaining skilled staff and a national shortage of secure and therapeutic homes, so I am concerned about the impact this has on children's stability."

Meanwhile, The National Director for Social Care at Ofsted, Yvette Stanley, said: "I am pleased that this report sets out some examples of good practice that have contributed to children feeling better supported in their homes. However, the number of children's homes continues to grow, but not in the right places or all offering what children need."

Stanley hoped that the "report encourages local authorities and children's homes to work together in planning what is needed and where in the best interests of children".