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.

4. Conclusion

4.1 Principles of practice - External manager for residential child care establishments

The external manager has a lead role to play in achieving the 'culture change' envisioned by NRCCI. There is a key link between the residential child care setting and the broader organisation, as well as other agencies at all levels, promoting partnership working and ensuring congruence.

The external manager must have a strong sense of the role that residential child care plays in the continuum of services for children and young people and the contribution it can make to achieving good outcomes for children and young people. Central to achieving these outcomes will be the relationships formed by front line staff with children, young people and their families and the external manager will ensure, with the help of the 'person in charge', that the workforce are best prepared for their role.

The external manager understands the importance of the 'person in charge' in setting the tone and establishing a positive culture within the residential environment. The external manager should be one of the most important sources of support for the 'person in charge' - providing informal and formal opportunities.

They will promote evidence based residential child care as a positive option for those children and young people whose needs it serves and challenge the perception of residential child care as a last resort.

The external manager must also ensure that the structures support the positive culture and where necessary instigate the changes required to decision making and communication systems.

4.2 Key requirements of an external manager

In summarising the content of this guidance we offer the following as 'Key Requirements' for fulfilling the external management role:

The external manager must have the skills, knowledge and experience to be:

  • A champion for residential child care.
  • An effective safeguard for children and young people.
  • A significant source of support to the 'person in charge'.

4.3 Key Responsibilities and Essential Tasks

In the scoping exercise it was clear that participants did not want a "checklist" of things the external manager must do. However, we felt it was important to reaffirm the list included in the 1997 guidance and, in gathering evidence for the scoping exercise, imperative that we expand on this. We would recommend that external managers use this list to reflect and review their role and not as an exhaustive list of duties.

Key Responsibilities

  • Ensure that acceptable standards are maintained
  • Monitoring the experiences of children
  • Ensure that practice complies with all legislation, regulations and national and local guidance.
  • Develop a relationship with the 'person in charge' which allows them to best support and constructively challenge.
  • Ensure all staff are aware of their responsibilities, properly supported and have clear professional development plans.
  • Ensure the home and physical environment is in a good state of repair, and ensure any problems are dealt with swiftly.
  • Identifying the need for and instigating any necessary changes;
  • Reporting on progress to the managing authority or agency
  • Ensure the work of their own organisation is informed by the views of children and young people.
  • Ensure robust and fair policies are in place to oversee any allegations made against staff to safeguard both young people and staff.
  • Promote the objectives, purpose and values of the organisation, and in this particular case the residential unit.

Essential tasks

  • Professional supervision and appraisal of 'person in charge' (including the development of an appropriate professional development plan).
  • Involvement in the recruitment of the 'person in charge'.
  • Provide young people and their families with an outline of how the above responsibilities will be met.
  • Regular visits to the residential establishment.
  • Manage referrals and make decisions about placement admissions and transitions.
  • Receive and read all complaints and incident reports from the residential establishment.

4.4 Final Comment

This guidance reaffirms the key messages from existing research and policy. The reference to existing statute also ensures that this guidance has a formal relevance to all providers of residential child care services. In addition to this, the contribution of staff from across the sector has provided valuable evidence of positive practice and further emphasised the importance of the individuals in external management roles. We would expect that all providers of residential child care services will use this guidance to review their external management arrangements and make any changes necessary to ensure that children and young people receive the highest standards of care.


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