Today sees the release of the 9th “State of the sector” report by the Children’s Homes Association.
The results are based on a comprehensive annual survey of the association’s membership, a large majority of which are small organisations, often operating only one or two homes. The smaller providers make up a significant majority of the provision in the sector, a factor that is often overlooked by commentators who do not look beyond the now out-of-date CMA market study that only considered a small minority of the (largest) children’s social care providers.
The dominant themes in this year’s report relate to the challenges of staff recruitment and retention and the rising costs of staffing and the impact of the highest cost inflation experienced since the studies began in 2015. Reduced profitability and reserves are anticipated by respondents as a result of the uncertainties around recovery of higher costs from local authorities. This situation leads to greater caution amongst some providers and therefore acts as a brake on further capacity investment. Given the clear and continuing evidence of increasing demand and the urgent need for additional capacity this should be seen as a warning sign for policy makers and commissioners.
The Government and Independent Review response to the CMA market study offers little other than a relatively undefined notion of regional care cooperative pilots in the next 2 years. With such a lacklustre and ponderous response from policy makers there is an opportunity for providers to take a more urgent and leading role in shaping the sector to better meet demand and needs. The survey report includes some non-partisan examination of the roles of public, voluntary and private sector in a mixed economy. It also examines both the operation of the current referral interfaces between purchasing authorities and providers and considers the appetite for alternative forms of contracting arrangements.
This is rich intelligence that has the potential to be developed into a set of pragmatic, balanced and sustainable models for purchasing bodies and providers alike.
The report can be accessed via the link below.