[008.23] Exploring Care for Children with Complex Needs in Children’s Homes

In an Ofsted upcoming research project focused on children with complex needs residing in children’s homes, the initial stage involved a survey conducted among local authorities and children’s home providers. The responses from 807 children’s homes and 78 local authorities shed light on the associations and difficulties faced in finding suitable homes and accepting referrals for children with complex needs. This project builds upon a previous report that highlighted the increasing demand for specialized provisions to support children with complex needs and the challenges faced by local authorities in finding appropriate placements.

The research aims to gain a clearer understanding of the term “complex needs,” examine the efforts made by local authorities and children’s homes in providing positive experiences for these children, explore collaborative approaches between authorities and homes, and identify potential areas for improvement.

The survey revealed that “complex needs” encompass various types of needs and risks, often requiring support from multiple partner agencies. Mental health needs, behavioral needs linked to safeguarding concerns, behavioral needs associated with learning difficulties, and physical health needs were identified as the primary categories contributing to complex needs. These areas, when combined, form the basis of the definition.

Local authorities reported significant challenges in finding homes for children with complex needs, with an average time of four months to secure stable placements and some cases taking up to three years. Placement breakdowns, unplanned moves, out-of-area placements, and homes declining referrals were common issues experienced by children with complex needs.

The research also highlighted systemic barriers impacting the care and placement of children with complex needs. These barriers include the effectiveness of multi-agency working, access to health services, staff consistency and skills, availability of suitable homes, and the thoroughness of referral processes. Communication gaps and lack of transparency between local authorities and children’s homes were identified as obstacles to making informed referral decisions.

The next phase of the research will involve engaging with children living in children’s homes and professionals involved in their care, with the intention of sharing examples of good practices.

The comprehensive report will be published in the autumn, offering insights and recommendations based on the survey findings and subsequent research stages.

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