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.

2. Context

2.1 Legislation and Regulations

2.1.1 The Residential Establishments - Child Care (Scotland) Regulations 1996 define the manager of children's residential establishments as different from the 'person in charge'. The 1996 regulations are concerned with the conduct of the residential establishment with a clear focus on the functions and objectives statement. These regulations remain largely in force.

2.1.2 The 1997 guidance accompanying the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 states that an external manager must be designated and outlines the main tasks as:

Monitoring the experience of children;

Ensuring that practice complies with legislation, regulations and national and local guidance;

Supervising and supporting the 'person in charge';

Ensuring that staff are familiar with their responsibilities and equipped, through training, to perform them;

Ensuring that resources, including staffing, the building, furnishing and fittings are sufficient and suited to purpose;

Identifying the need for and instigating any necessary changes;

Reporting on progress to the managing authority or agency

(The Scottish Office, 1997: 80).

2.1.3 The 1997 guidance states that written functions and objectives should include 'identifying the functions and role of external managers'. Unfortunately this is not included in the 1996 regulations which state the formal functions of the external manager (these functions can be delegated for non-local authority services). There are no specific statutory expectations of the structures of governance or management within which residential child care establishments should operate.

2.1.5 The Regulation of Care (Scotland) Act 2001 set up the Care Commission and the Scottish Social Services Council ( SSSC) for the registration of care services and social services staff. The Public Service Reform (Scotland) Act 2010 replaced the Care Commission with the Social Care and Social Work Improvement Scotland ( SCSWIS) (known as the 'Care Inspectorate') and gave powers to create further regulations.

2.1.6 The Care Inspectorate must take into account the relevant National Care Standards (published in 2005). These care standards define 'external manager' and make reference to the role of the external manager (see Appendix 1). The Care Inspectorate developed a Quality Framework for the purposes of inspection which includes statements on the quality of management and leadership.

2.1.7 The 2001 Act also included powers to make further regulations and the Regulation of Care (Requirements as to Care Services) (Scotland) Regulations 2002 superseded some parts of the 1996 regulations. The 2002 regulations do not use 'person in charge' for those responsible for the day to day management. They prefer to use the term 'manager' which is inconsistent with the 1996 regulations. The external manager role is not discussed and is therefore not distinguished within the broader duties of the 'provider'.

2.1.8 The Public Service Reform (Scotland) Act 2010 repealed Parts 1 and 2 of the 2001 Act and the Social Care and Social Work Improvement Scotland (Requirements for Care Services) Regulations 2011 have subsequently superseded the 2002 Regulations. The 2011 regulations largely restate the requirements for care services including the role of provider. This includes the responsibility to appoint a manager if they do not have full-time day-to-day charge of the care service.

2.1.9. The Care Inspectorate will look at external management arrangements at the point of registration but there is currently no requirement for external managers to take part in the inspection process unless they are named as the 'registered manager'. Where young people are placed out of authority the Care Inspectorate maintain a responsibility for updating the commissioning authority. This is most likely where smaller organisations do not have extensive monitoring structures. While providers must notify the Care Inspectorate of a change in 'manager' there is no similar requirement for the external manager role.

2.2 National Policy

2.2.1 'Getting it Right for Every Child' sets out a vision for improving children's services across Scotland. Managers at all levels are expected to provide leadership and strategic support to implement the changes in culture, systems and practice required within and across agencies to implement Getting it Right for Every Child. They should also plan for the transition as staff in agencies move from the current working processes to the new child-centred processes.

2.2.2 The National Residential Child Care Initiative ( NRCCI) reported in 2009, articulated an aspirational vision for residential child care as the best choice for those young people whose needs it serves. The external management of children's homes was discussed in the Workforce report and its findings are used to inform this guidance. The series of NRCCI reports set out an ambitious agenda for change in residential child care.

2.2.3 In response to the NRCCI reports, the Scottish Government and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities ( CoSLA) agreed to work alongside the Association of Directors of Social Work ( ADSW), providers of residential child care and other key stakeholders, to develop guidance on the roles and responsibilities of external managers and governing bodies of providers of residential care, and to provide any support required to ensure its effective implementation.

2.3 Research

2.3.1 There have been few empirical studies exploring the role of external management across the United Kingdom. The lessons of relevant inquiries and other significant reports conclude that where abuse has taken place external management arrangements are inadequate (See Appendix 2). Insufficient monitoring of the environment and a lack of support for staff resonates across these reports. The Children's Safeguards Review, commonly known as The Kent Report emphasised the importance of 'external eyes' and the critical role of direct line management to safeguard children (Scottish Office, 1997). A systematic review of historical abuse in residential child care concluded that legislation and policy needed to be 'fit for purpose' (Shaw, 2007).

2.3.2 The seminal study by Whipp, Kirkpatrick and Kitchener (2005) explored the role of external management of residential care units in England and Wales. This study highlighted the specific management challenges facing social services departments due to a multitude of competing goals and illustrated how 'an understanding of the difficulties and structural constraints involved will lead to the development of more realistic appreciations of the external management of children's homes and their potential for change' (2005:24). One identified challenge has been the 'pressure to establish new management systems and respond to more complex legislation and guidance while being forced to implement cuts in resources and staff establishments' (2005: 183). There has not been an equivalent study in Scotland.

Six processes key to the external management of children's homes:

1. Strategy and implementation

'A capacity to join needs analysis and strategy creation and, in turn, to translate the resulting decision into operational form pays huge dividends' (page 186). This supports the findings of the Waterhouse Inquiry 'Lost in Care' which highlighted the importance of strategic planning.

2. Child placement

Across the study, this was mainly characterised by unplanned admissions and high occupancy rates. There was evidence better placements could be linked to attempts to specialise the purpose of children's homes.

3. Line management

This was highlighted as increasing specialist line manager posts and devolved responsibilities to unit managers. Supervision could still be dominated by a 'custodial' approach. Managers face competing demands and needed to protect supervision (page 188). A lack of clarity in objectives can limit line management.

4. Managing staff

There needs to be an awareness of the culture of public administration, there is a shift towards a human resource management approach. This includes planning and delivery of training for residential staff (page 189).

5. Monitoring and control

There needs to be a balance between regulatory and developmental inspection. There is a specific role in advice to unit managers and support for staff (page 191).

6. Management of external placements

There was greater involvement of senior management than in the past. There was evidence of data not being collected or analysed to inform the decision making processes.

Whipp, R., Kirkpatrick, I. & Kitchener, M. (2005) Managing Residential Child Care: A Managed Service, Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan (Pg 186-193).

The researchers found that the organisational culture and value of residential child care is paramount in defining the role of external management. They also emphasised that the external management of residential child care services is not simply the relationship between an external manager and the 'person in charge', highlighting the need for an 'inclusive' orientation:

'Building an understanding of the external management of children's homes needs to encompass not only the home and the line manager but also residential staff, service and resource managers, fieldworkers, senior managers, support staff, other professionals, those responsible for inspection, and members of social services committees' (Whipp et al., 2005:192).

2.3.3 An English study of 45 residential children's homes (30 local authority homes and 15 from the non-statutory sector) found that the process through which residential child care is provided was central to young people's positive outcomes. The study highlighted:

'Overall, what seemed to matter in children's homes was that the manager was accepted as embodying good practice from within a clear ethos and had positive strategies for working both with the behaviour of young people and in relation to their education, and importantly, was capable of enabling staff to reflect and deploy these strategies' (Hicks, 2008:242).

Although this study was focused on the role of the unit managers, the importance of the external manager in the recruitment, training and support of unit managers to fulfil their roles effectively is essential.

2.4 Existing Practice

2.4.1 Across Scotland it is recognised there are a diversity of providers with different structures of management and practice models. It is important to emphasise that this guidance is not prescriptive in who performs the role of external manager and how the functions of external management are exercised. The scoping exercise highlighted many similarities within sectors (for example, local authority structures are broadly comparable); however, across private and third sector providers there is considerable diversity.

2.4.2 Whilst recognising that the views of those involved in the scoping study recommended that any guidance should not be overly prescriptive, it is important to emphasise that most participants described a systematic approach to oversight and monitoring and these arrangements must be adequate. Where there was evidence of shared or delegation of responsibilities there was an emphasis on this being appropriate to the role, position and skills of the individuals concerned. Delegation of tasks, where appropriate, cannot become an abdication of responsibilities.

2.4.3 With regard to the multiplicity of structures within which residential establishments exist, it is the responsibility of individual organisations to decide who the external manager is with reference to this guidance. There is general agreement that young people and families need to know who the external manager is, and most specifically who the 'person in charge' is accountable to. In the scoping study there were occasions where identifying where the external management responsibilities lay required some interrogation.

2.4.4 Considering the importance of this role we would recommend that the registration of services includes the identification of the person or group of people with external management responsibilities and the Care Inspectorate are informed of any changes.

2.4.5 A number of external managers commented on not having enough time to visit services as much as they would like, whilst others noted the need for them to take a 'back seat' on day-to-day issues. Structures must allow those with external management responsibilities to have adequate opportunities for direct monitoring balanced with sufficient critical distance from the day-to-day management of individual establishments.


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