‘Residential Task in Child Care’ by Barbara Kahan and Geoff Banner

The Key Texts are the classics from the past, which helped to shape today’s services. Some are books, some are research reports, some are papers or chapters in books and one is a Government policy document. We have selected a score of texts, and are offering a “digested read”. They are being published at a rate of two a month. The digests cover a standard pattern, setting the context of the text, describing its contents, analysing its impact then and its relevance now, and suggesting further reading.

The digests prepared to date have been written by Robert Shaw, but if any reader wishes to contribute, please get in touch, to ensure that we have not already prepared a digest on the text in question. We are pleased to announce that the series is sponsored by the Scottish Institute for Residential Child Care, and we are most grateful to them for their support.

Barbara Kahan and Geoff Banner (Eds) (1969) Residential Task in Child Care: the Castle Priory Report Banstead: Residential Care Association

This report of a conference held at Castle Priory College in 1968 went to a second edition three years later and a reprint seven years after that, quite an achievement for the slimmest document in the series. Written at a turning point for child care in Great Britain following the publication of the Kilbrandon Report (Committee on children and young persons, 1964) and with the White Paper Children in Trouble (Home Office, 1968) just out, it gives a snapshot of the concerns of some of the key figures in child care at the time – the place of residential care within child care services and how best to recruit, train and support residential staff.

Its training proposals were quickly picked up by Clare Winnicott in her capacity as head of the Central Training Council in Child Care, though they did not survive the establishment in 1971 of the Central Council for Education and Training in Social Work, but its recommendations for staffing ratios, widely pronounced as unachievable in 1969, were largely implemented and in some areas exceeded a decade later.

Key Ideas

• Residential work is part of social work.

• Residential workers need support and training to carry out their work.

• Residential workers need conditions of work that will enable them to work effectively.


In Section I “Introduction”, the editors outline how the Curtis Report (Care of Children Committee, 1946) and Bowlby (1953) led to residential care being seen as `second best’. However, the Children and Young Persons Act 1963 had led to the recognition that residential care had a role with older children and the Williams Report (1967) had turned attention to the needs of residential care. So on 18-23 March 1968 there had been a conference of representatives of the Residential Child Care Association, the Association of Child Care Officers and the Association of Children’s Officers together with Margaret Gaskell and David Lennox, tutors on residential child care courses, at Castle Priory College, Wallingford.

In Section II “Basic problem”, the editors set out the issues that the conference decided to tackle which are addressed in the succeeding sections, noting that residential care has become a dumping ground, there is little support or supervision for residential social workers compared with fieldworkers, there is little understanding of relationships in residential care and residential care has a poor public image.

In Section III “The children in residential care”, the editors set out the answer to the question What children are receiving care? – children of all ages with all types of needs but whose behaviour tends to be more difficult.

In Section IV “Defining the task”, the editors answer the question What is the professional task? by drawing on the work of Henry Maier to suggest that it has three key components:

• nurturing

• dealing with loss

• helping children to manage their behaviour

In Section V “The needs of children in groups”, the editors list the care needs of children as

direct nurturing care: relationships, privacy, community involvement, a primary group, bed, personal space, opportunities to stay on till 21, opportunities for creative activities, accessibility to a town but with space for outdoor activities, help to understand the impact of their own behaviour, positive relationships, help to learn new skills, exposure to good models, support and encouragement, praise and, where appropriate, criticism, the absolute right to their own name and identity, a record of their life history, e.g. photographs, etc., opportunities to give, opportunities to be different and involvement in plans for their future

indirect nurturing care: a managed environment (small family homes limit the range of experiences for children and limit support for staff), a group into which they can blend, processes of the day, e.g. mealtimes, that are managed

remedial care: physical, emotional and specialist external services but special education in the child’s environment and not in a residential special school

In Section VI “Professional training and recruitment”, the editors record the discussion and decisions relating to the question What training is needed? The Williams Committee had recommend two years training but not jointly with field social workers because of fears that too many residential workers would become field social workers. However, the conference decided that they favoured joint training with field social workers (though there could be both joint and separate training) because they thought that residential child care workers should be as competent as social workers.

They recognised that domestic staff might also benefit from training, albeit not at the level of residential child care officers, and that existing residential work courses were based on the assumption of prior work experience.

They believed that within a two year joint course residential work students should undertake at least one fieldwork placement and fieldwork students should undertake at least one residential work placement. They also believed that emergency arrangements should be made to train existing staff. They came up with the following table.

  Course Age range Comments
1 Preliminary Residential Child Care 16–22 years general education
2 Certificate of Attendance up to 23 years if committed to applying for full time training in 2 years
3 Certificate in Residential Child Care (part time) Senior staff: older entrants for next 5 years one year course taken as 3 years part time
4 Certificate in Residential Child Care (full time 1 year) 18 years and above to be expanded and absorbed into 2 year courses
5 Letter of Recognition 23 years and above field work and residential work (full time two years) – supervised practice later to determine specialism
6 Advanced Holders of 3, 4, 5 managers

Their answer to the question What recruitment? was partly answered by developing and expanding training in the way they had outlined to assist recruitment but they also saw the need for improvements in staff accommodation together with realistic charges for that accommodation and parity of remuneration between field and residential workers.

In Section VII “Professional consultation”, the editors answer the question What professional support and consultation? by reference to an article by Jim Hodder (1968).

In Section VIII “Staffing ratios”, the editors explain how the conference answered the question What staffing ratios? by developing standards for a 40-hour week and explaining why their results are different from those produced by the Williams Committee.

In Section IX “Further discussion”, they list those questions they were not able to address:

• career structure

• retention

• the relationships between domestic staff, residential workers and field workers

• clerical assistance

• involvement in planning

• day care

• community homes

• research

In the Appendix they set out their calculations for “Suggested staffing ratios and examples related to 40 and 45-hour working weeks”.


The Castle Priory Report, as it has come to be known, throws a particular light on the issues facing residential child care in the second half of the twentieth century. In spite of the debates about the future of child care, the conference did not question the current state of extra-familial care as Rowe and Lambert (1973) were to do but looked for a way of dealing with the situation.

With residential care widely believed to be ‘second best’, the conference saw its future in an alliance with social work as a particular ‘method’. To bring this about there had to be a whole new series of arrangements to enable residential workers to gain the skills and deliver the level of work demanded of them as social workers.

It is interesting to compare it with the report of the Advisory Council in Child Care (1970) whose professional foundations in education are a million miles from the social work orientation of those who took part in this conference. The definition by the conference of residential care as a ‘feminine’ occupation, notwithstanding the desire of the participants to encourage more men to join the profession, and its alliance with another ‘feminine’ profession, social work, can in retrospect be seen as a strategic mistake because it led to a focus on short term, ‘problem solving’ work with children in residential care rather than on providing long term stability for children wherever they were in extra-familial care.

It also consolidated the tendency observed by the Committee of Enquiry (1946) over twenty years earlier for care to be seen as separate from education. The argument was to be resumed 25 years later in the debate about the European ‘social pedagogue’ model (Jones, 1994).

Notwithstanding this, the report is widely regarded as having propelled residential work from being an almost feudal occupation in which staff lived in as tenants for a peppercorn rent and could be exploited to work long hours because they could not get away from the children to becoming a profession in which being off-duty and having time to recover away from those they are caring for is seen as important for the quality of the work they are able to do while on-duty.

What perhaps is missing is Mary Carpenter’s conviction that all extra-familial work requires more skill than that of a physician (1853, p. 301); for her, arguing that residential work requires the same skill as social work would involve devaluing the skills needed in extra-familial care.


Advisory Council in Child Care (1970) Care and treatment in a planned environment: a report on the community home project London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office See also Children Webmag December 2008.

Bowlby E J M (1953) Child care and the growth of love: based by permission of the World Health Organization on the report “Maternal care and mental health” Abridged and edited by Margery Fry London: Penguin

Care of Children Committee (1946) Report of the Care of Children Committee Cmd 6922 London: His Majesty’s Stationery Office Chairman: Myra Curtis

Carpenter M (1853) Juvenile delinquents, their condition and treatment London: W & F G Cash See also Children Webmag November 2008

Committee of Enquiry (1946) Approved schools and remand homes: remuneration and conditions of service London: His Majesty’s Stationery Office

Committee on children and young persons (1964) Children and young persons, Scotland: report by the committee appointed by the Secretary of State for Scotland, etc. [Chairman: Lord Kilbrandon] Cmnd 2306 Edinburgh: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office

Hodder J (1968) The residential task – the role of Residential Services Advisor in the support of houseparents Child in Care 8(2)

Home Office (1968) Children in trouble Cmnd 3601 London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office

Jones H D (1994) Social workers or social educators? The international context for developing social care Paper No 2 London: National Institute for Social Work International Centre

Rowe J and Lambert L (1973) Children who wait: a study of children needing substitute families London: Association of British Adoption Agencies

Williams G (1967) Caring for people: staffing residential homes: the report of the committee of enquiry set up by the National Council of Social Service London: Allen & Unwin

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