Unlocking Potential: Rethinking Private Children's Homes for Vulnerable Youth
13 02 24
In a recent interview with Daniel Wilson, Head of Children's Residential at Bedspace Resource, a spotlight has been cast on the often-misunderstood realm of private children's homes. Daniel, with decades of experience in the field, addressed prevalent negative perceptions and highlighted the untapped benefits that these homes bring to the lives of vulnerable young people.
Acknowledging existing negative views surrounding private children's homes, Daniel emphasised the importance of a balanced understanding of the challenges faced by both private and public sector homes. He noted that financial constraints within local authorities might inadvertently contribute to misconceptions about private homes, urging for a more informed perspective.
The conversation explored the financial dynamics of private versus public sector children's homes. Daniel presented evidence suggesting that private homes often operate more cost-effectively. For instance, according to a 2019 report for the National Centre for Excellence in Residential Child Care, the average cost of a Local Authority home was £4761 per week, excluding overheads or capital costs. Fast forward five years, the weekly cost, including overheads, amounts to £5,000. These figures underscore the financial complexities faced by both sectors and highlight the potential efficiencies of private homes.
Daniel passionately discussed the commitment and stability offered by private children's homes, emphasising their ability to provide a tailored approach to meet the specific needs of each child. Challenges faced by public sector homes, such as pressure to accept children without proper assessment, were discussed in the context of systemic challenges.
The interview introduced the concept of sequential sourcing, where cost-effective placements were often prioritised, sometimes leading to multiple breakdowns before private children's homes are even considered. At this point, there is a real danger of mistrust forming in the young person who no longer feels secure in future placements. Daniel advocated for a more individualised assessment approach that prioritises the needs of each child, including hearing the voices of each young person already in a home, asking them who they would want to see come in. This simple act allows each young person to feel supported and valued.
We then spoke about a young person’s journey from care to independence. Daniel portrayed private children's homes as actively involved in preparing children for independence, starting as early as age 14. Bedspace has created a unique Pathway of Services which allows for each young person to transition through their own journey to sustainable independence in a way that best suits them. This includes services that involve 24/7 staff support through our Trainer Flats, to Outreach Support where they live semi-independently in their own home with regular visited hours of support. With this in mind, Daniel highlights that should a young person in their Children’s Home require a different style of support/environment, they can transition through the Bedspace Pathway in a smooth way, with their Support Worker able to visit them at the Children’s Home before they move, and allowing for a line of communication with the Children’s Home staff if needed. This further shows the importance of consistent support during this transition, highlighting the proactive role private homes play in this process.
The conversation concluded with a call for a shift in perception and a more collaborative approach between private providers and local authorities. Daniel’s insights, coupled with statistical evidence, underscored the need for a holistic understanding of the sector, the potential benefits of collaboration between private and public sectors and needs-led placement sourcing for the well-being of vulnerable youth.