Generic Service Standards for Residential Settings for Young People

Following the implementation of the Care Standards Act (2000) in April 2000, almost the entire field of residential and boarding education and care became the subject of National Minimum Standards.

Service Standards were published for: children’s homes, residential special schools, boarding schools, FE colleges (accommodation for students under 18 years of age) and care homes for younger adults. Standards were also produced for Youth Justice Services (Youth Justice Board, 2004) and for Child and Adolescent Psychiatric In-Patient Services (CAMHS, 2001). These two sets each contain standards which focused upon the residential aspects of care and are comparable with other Service Standards. In addition, the Charterhouse Group published, as an adjunct to those for children’s homes, Standards of Therapeutic Community Child Care, Health and Education.

These Service Standards all have the same basic purpose, to safeguard the welfare of young people living away from home in groups. However, even allowing for the specialised requirements of each type of setting, the Standards still vary very widely in number and coverage. Since at least some of the Standards are to be rewritten, this seems to be an appropriate time to consider the possibility of producing a generic set of Service Standards to cover the fundamental needs of all young people who live in residence.

With a focus upon the first five sets of Standards listed, together with those for therapeutic communities, all of which are concerned with the residential environment, an attempt will be made in this paper to produce an inventory of Standards which could be considered generic. Potentially interesting inclusions from the Youth Justice Services and Psychiatric Care Standards will then be indicated.


Types of Setting Number
Residential Special Schools 33
Children’s Homes (one on secure homes) 36
Care Homes for Younger Adults 43
FE Colleges 47
Boarding Schools 52

Different provision : different standards

The National Minimum Standards for Residential Special Schools, Boarding Schools and FE Colleges all have the same basic instruction and all have been designated Inspection Regulations. The Standards for Children’s Homes are considered to be both Regulations and Standards and the Children’s Homes Regulations are included in the volume. The Standards for Care Homes include in their introduction far more explanation about the Standards and the aims of the exercise.

However, for all five sets the format is essentially the same. There is a statement covering the basic Standard which is followed by a number of contributory or sub-standards. For a satisfactory outcome to any inspection, all need to be achieved. The outcome is also listed although this is variously described as: “outcome to be achieved” or “indication of intended outcome”. In the initial discussions, the sub-standards were intended to be criteria and that remains their purpose. This does appear to impose an unnecessary constraint in that, should the Standard be achieved by a criterion not listed, the Standard itself would not have been officially achieved.

This issue is addressed in the preamble for Care Homes in which it is stated that regulators will look for the following evidence from:

  • discussion;
  • observation; and
  • written documents, policies, procedures etc.

In fact, these sources, together with interviews and possibly questionnaires, cover the range of evidence available to inspectors or regulators. Given that all such approaches can be used, is it really necessary to have a list of sub-standards or criteria?

From their approach and layout, these five sets of Standards fall into three categories:

  • Residential Special Schools and Children’s Homes;
  • Boarding Schools and FE Colleges; and
  • Care Homes.

It is interesting to note that while Residential Special Schools and Children’s Homes have much in common, in that the residents are predominantly looked after children, Residential Special Schools are also considered Boarding Schools. As such, they are listed with mainstream Boarding Schools in the tables provided in the Utting Report (1997). The Standards for Care Homes were derived from those for Adult Placements.

Considering that these Standards are all covering young people of a similar age group living away from home in groups, the total number of Standards for each setting varies surprisingly, as shown in the Table. Standards for Residential Special Schools and Boarding Schools offer very much the same coverage but the approach is completely different. Furthermore, in the former each Standard is of approximately equal importance or weight, whereas in the latter this is not the case.

The structuring of the standards

Not only are the totals of Standards different, but the structure of the Standards, as indicated by the sub-divisions used to list them shows significant variation. For Residential Special Schools, there are nine sections:

  • Statement of the school’s purpose;
  • Children’s rights;
  • Child protection;
  • Care and control;
  • Quality of care;
  • Planning for care;
  • Premises;
  • Staffing; and
  • Organisation and management.

In the case of Children’s Homes, the subject matter is comparable but the order is quite different:

  • Planning for care;
  • Quality of care;
  • Complaints and protection;
  • Care and control;
  • Environment;
  • Staffing;
  • Management and administration; and
  • Specific settings.

Standards for Boarding Schools and FE Colleges have the same sections:

  • Welfare policies and procedures;
  • Organisation and management;
  • Welfare support;
  • Staffing; and
  • Premises.

The Standards for Residential Special Schools and Children’s Homes are more obviously child-focused and the order of sections listed for the latter Standards is the most appropriate. Planning for care and quality of care should surely be the foremost considerations. In the case of Boarding Schools, apart from the Statement of Purpose, the first four Standards in order cover bullying, child protection, behaviour, discipline, punishments and restraint, rewards and restraint and responding to complaints. For any generic inventory, this would seem to be something of a negative start. Therefore, as a framework, it is proposed to adopt the sub-sections as set out for Children’s Homes Standards.

Despite these obvious differences, there are at another level, many links between these sets of Standards, as shown in the Figure. This shows that in effect there are two basic hubs: Boarding Schools and Children’s Homes. If the residents in a Boarding School are all over sixteen years of age, then the inspection is by FE College Standards. If residents are accommodated for over 295 days per year, then Children’s Homes Standards apply. If the boarders are predominantly with special educational needs or in public care, Residential Special School Standards should be used. Similarly, FE Colleges overlap care homes in that if there are more than 10% of the young people under personal or nursing care, the FE College is designated a care home for inspection purposes. Children’s Homes are linked to Residential Special Schools by the length of accommodation and to custodial care by Secure Units. Therapeutic Communities are a specialised form of Children’s Home.

Differences in specific standards

Although the Standards for Boarding Schools and FE Colleges have a similar derivation, there are several significant differences. Those for FE Colleges provide guidance on both arrival and leaving. They are also far more detailed on health education, supervision and accommodation. Of all the Standards, they alone give prominence to staff and students with disabilities.

The populations of Boarding Schools and Residential Special Schools overlap and work by the DfES on vulnerable young people illustrates this point. Although there are far fewer Standards, those for the Residential Special Schools cover several key areas which are either missing from or barely mentioned in the Boarding School Standards. There is an accent on children’s rights and views. The Standard on bullying includes an emphasis on risk assessment. There is a Standard on missing children, for which there is no equivalent in Boarding School Standards. There is an emphasis on the support for individual children and the planning of their progress. There is also more detail on discipline, control and leaving. Residential Special School Standards are also distinguished by having the one Standard in any of the five sets related to the education obtained within the living and learning environment of the residence.

Standard 12.1

Care staff and the school’s residential provision and activities actively contribute to individual children’s educational progress and care staff actively support children’s education, …

This Standard illustrates the core of residential living and summarises what are two of the defining characteristics of the Therapeutic Community concept:

  • A shared commitment to the goal of learning from the experience of living and / or working together (a living learning situation); and
  • A living learning culture where interdependence emerges through take-up of responsibilities rather than through the demand for rights.

Children’s Homes Standards differ from Boarding Schools Standards in a similar way, the major issue being the accent upon all aspects of care. This point can be illustrated by referring to the specific Standard which covers relationships between staff and young people. For the Boarding Schools and FE Colleges this is the only Standard which can be considered pastoral. For Boarding Schools, the outcome states:

There are sound relationships between staff and boarders.

The Standard is summarised as follows:

Standard 36.1

There are sound staff/boarder relationships.

Standard 36.2

The general view of boarders is that staff look after them well and fairly, and that communication between staff and boarders is positive.

For FE Colleges, the outcome is much the same but the Standard is amplified significantly.

Standard 32.1

There are sound staff/student relationships including an understanding of respective roles, rights and responsibilities.

For Children’s Homes and Residential Special Schools, the outcome states: children enjoy sound relationships with staff based on honesty and mutual respect.

The Standard itself reads:

Standard 21.1

Relationships between staff and children are based on mutual respect and understanding and clear professional and personal boundaries which are effective for both the individuals and the group.

Compared with those for Residential Special Schools and Children’s Homes, the Standards for Boarding Schools and FE Colleges are clearly deficient in their lack of focus upon pastoral care and the learning which results from living away from home in groups.

Care Homes for younger adults introduce other dimensions which could, with benefit, be incorporated in generic Standards. These cover the matching of the young person’s needs and placement in a particular home following, if necessary, trial visits. There is an accent on decision making by the young people and upon risk taking as part of personal development. There is also a stress upon relationships and community links. Two Standards can serve as illustrations:

Standard 9.1

Staff enable service users to take responsible risks, ensuring they have good information on which to base decisions…

Standard 11.1

Staff enable service users to have opportunities to maintain and develop social, emotional, communication and independent living skills.

Proposal for a generic inventory

In producing a suggested inventory of generic Standards, the Children’s Home Standards are taken as the basis. Other Standards introduced are identified in parenthesis: (BS) Boarding Schools, (SS) Residential Special Schools, (YA) Care Homes for Younger Adults, (TC) Therapeutic Communities.

    1. Planning for CareStatement of purposePersonal development plans and reviewsContact: guardians (BS)Induction and leavingSupport to individual children: internal and external (BS)

      Choice of setting: introductory visits (YA)

      Preparations for independent living

    2. Quality of CareConsultation : ethos of environment (TC): open, warm & nurturing environment (TC)Privacy and confidentialityProvision and preparation of mealsPersonal appearance, clothing, requisites, and pocket money

      Good health and well-being

      Treatment and administration of medicines

      Education: residential contribution (SS)

      : living and learning towards interdependence (TC)

      Leisure activities

      Access to information and external facilities (BS)

    3. Complaints and ProtectionComplaints and representationChild protection procedures and trainingCountering bullyingDiscrimination and equal opportunities (BS)Absence of child without authorising


    4. Care and ControlRelationship with childrenBehaviour managementRisk taking (YA)
    5. EnvironmentLocation, design and size of settingAccommodation: for sick children (BS): changing rooms (BS)Bathrooms, washing facilities: laundry (BS)Health, safety and security
    6. StaffingVetting of staff and visitorsStaff supportAdequacy of staffing
    7. Management and AdministrationMonitoring the welfare of the children (BS)Monitoring the operation of the programmeOrganisation of the setting (BS)Managing the setting

This inventory includes all the aspects covered by the National Minimum Standards for the different types of setting considered. Both the order of the sections and the emphasis focus upon the care and welfare of the young people, set out in a positive fashion.

Other considerations

However, it is worth quoting from the Standards produced by the Quality Network for In-Patient CAMHS because they introduce certain key ideas:

  1. EnvironmentPatients consultedEquipment and procedures for emergencies
  2. StaffingStaff work effectively as a team
  3. Access, admission and dischargeUnits are parent-friendly
  4. Care & treatmentAll patients are assessed for their health and social care needsWherever possible the treatment provided is evidence-based
  5. Information, consent and confidentialityEach patient has a key worker

These Standards provide the only mention of staff working effectively as a team and also the fact that the home or unit should be parent friendly. However, the most interesting Standard is that concerning evidence-based treatment. In none of the other Standards is this aspect of care considered. Within the National Standards for Youth Justice Services, Standard 10 deals with secure accommodation and is concerned with residential settings and therefore comparable with the other Standards discussed. Key points of interest are listed:

Standard 10: Secure Accommodation

10.3 Staff deployed should … include appropriate representation from minority ethnic groups.

10.8 Staff should be encouraged to report to managers concerns about the conduct of colleagues and managers where appropriate.

10.9 Staff and managers have an obligation to behave in an open and honest (“pro-social”) way as a model for young people.

10.18 Each young person must be aware of the conduct expected …

10.28 On reception, all young people must be given the opportunity to telephone someone who may be concerned about their welfare.

10.36 Secure establishments must all have well stocked libraries for use by young people …

10.47 Offending behaviour work should constitute part of the individual training plan.

10.54 Each establishment must have written procedures for searching and other security activities …

These are the only Standards which mention the ethnic make-up of staff and whistle-blowing. They are also important as including the fundamental point that staff must act as role models. In any setting this would be considered one of the benefits of residential education and care. It is particularly interesting that secure establishments are the only ones in which a well-stocked library is considered crucial.

Professor Anderson was on the Steering Committees which produced the Standards for Boarding Schools, Children’s Homes and National Standards for Youth Justice Services and also the Standards for Managers in Residential Child Care.

1 thought on “Generic Service Standards for Residential Settings for Young People”

  1. I wonder why this entry has not included the Service Standards for Therapeutic Communties for Children and Young People 1st edition. These standards are published by the Community of Communties part of the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ Centre for Quality Improvement and sister project to the Quality Network for In-Patient CAMHS (QNIC) mentioned above.

    These Service Standards are referenced in the National Contract and identified as needing to be met by those services calling themselves “therapeutic”. The standards are evaluated through an annual cycle of self- and peer-review. Visit the website for futher informtion.


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