The title of the project seemed like wishful thinking for quite a while. There was momentum at the start, but the idea appeared to have got well bogged down as its enthusiasts were tied up in other responsibilities. The choice of title – put forward by Adrian Ward – seemed ironic.
But the idea was kept going by Richard Rollinson and Sally Bamsey. A grant was obtained from the Social Education Trust. Consultations were undertaken and the idea was developed and laid out in report form. And last month, the National Children’s Bureau published the report, launching it at the Children’s Residential Network day conference in the conference suite at Aston Villa football ground – well chosen as a good place to build up teamwork.
The idea is to seek Government funding to set up a centre to focus on residential child care to support the services in England – a role rather like the Scottish Institute of Residential Child Care, though, for some odd reason, excluding without explanation the professorial chair in residential care which is part of the Scottish package.
The need for the Centre is there. Residential care has been kicked around and bad-mouthed for the last forty years, and yet it is both necessary and a valuable service for children and young people with a variety of needs. The establishment of the Momentum Centre could give residential child care the boost it needs, providing leadership, skills, networks of contacts, training, research, ideas, consultancy, support and confidence.
The NCB Children’s Residential Care Unit, with its Residential Network, would be a good place to site the Centre. It is already providing some of the key services, and given only a modest augmentation (less than £1million over three years), it could have an enhanced impact and lift the quality of services nationwide. Without making any promises, Lord Filkin’s speech to the conference suggested sympathy for this cause. Setting up the Momentum Centre is something positive and of lasting value which he could achieve in the relatively short time left for this Government.
In winding up the conference, Sir Bill Utting described the implementation of the Momentum concept as the most positive thing which could be done for residential child care at present. We agree.