External management of residential child care establishments: national guidance

Guidance for those with external management responsibilities for any residential child care establishment, including childrens homes, secure care and some residential schools.

1. Introduction

This Guidance aims to:

  • Increase understanding and raise awareness about the external management role in residential child care.
  • Share and promote positive practice.
  • Provide principles, responsibilities and tasks of external management which will assist external managers to perform their role effectively.

1.1 The external manager has a lead role in achieving the 'culture change' envisioned by the National Residential Child Care Initiative ( NRCCI). They must champion residential child care, promote partnership working and ensure congruence within a continuum of services for children and young people. They emphasise the centrality of relationships formed by staff with children, young people and their families. The external manager understands the importance of the 'person in charge' in establishing a positive culture and is an important source of support to the 'person in charge'.

1.2 In practice the 'provider', 'external manager' and 'registered manager' can be the same person, it is important therefore to provide a clear definition of the 'external manager' in respect of this guidance. Any definition needs to recognise the range of residential child care service providers, from large local authorities to small independent organisations, also including secure services and some residential schools. Drawing on the National Care Standards (2005), this guidance offers the following definition for an external manager:

The person or group of people, sometimes a board or committee, identified by providers as responsible for the work of the residential child care establishments but not involved in full-time day-to-day management. The person in day-to-day charge is responsible to the external manager(s).

1.3 The role of the external manager has been highlighted in many reports as key to the development of residential child care services (Kent 1997, Utting 1997, NRCCI 2009, Skinner 1992). Critical inquiries have also emphasised the significance of external management as a safeguard for children and young people living in residential care (Edinburgh Inquiry 1999, Kerelaw 2009, Shaw 2007, Waterhouse 2000). Yet despite the recommendations stemming from inquiries, the role of the external manager has received little attention in the development of residential child care services (Whipp et al., 2005; Hicks et al., 2009).

This omission was highlighted in the National Residential Child Care Initiative ( NRCCI) resulting in Recommendation 15:

The Scottish Government should commission a piece of work that sets out the roles and responsibilities of the external manager and governing bodies of service providers and of those commissioning services similar to that undertaken for the Chief Social Work Officer, building on the requirements already set out in regulations.

1.4 In 2011 the Scottish Government, in collaboration with the Centre for Excellence for Looked after Children in Scotland ( CELCIS), based at the University of Strathclyde, embarked on a national scoping exercise to inform the development of the national guidance. Twenty five professionals participated in structured discussions representing statutory, voluntary and independent sector providers for residential child care, as well as inspection agencies and advocacy organisations. This guidance aims to develop a shared understanding of the external management function to help ensure all Scotland's children are safe, healthy, active, nurtured, achieving, respected, responsible and included.

1.5 This guidance is divided into three sections. Section 2 provides the legal, research and practice context for the role of the external manager in Scotland. Using evidence from the scoping study, Section 3 provides a comprehensive overview of the main tasks of the external manager as set out in the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 and associated regulations and guidance. The conclusion provides guiding principles and summarises the roles and responsibilities of external management in residential child care services.

1.6 This guidance draws on statutory requirements, national policy and guidance, research and current positive practices. This new guidance will be used as appropriate by regulators for the purposes of registration and inspection.


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