November 20, 2023

Team commits to giving a voice to children’s homes

The Children's Homes Association
Jen Robbins, Head of Policy and Strategy and Dr Mark Kerr, Deputy CEO of The Children’s Homes Association

A national organisation dedicated to achieving the best possible futures for young people living in children’s homes has moved to a new office in Darlington as part of its growth plans.

Membership body The Children’s Homes Association represents 1,800 children’s homes across England and Wales and their work to transform the lives of up to 10,000 children and young people in their care.

The not-for-profit organisation provides a voice to the sector, acting as a conduit between providers of residential child care and Government, by influencing policy, raising awareness of key challenges and inspiring innovation.

Now, The Children’s Homes Association has invested in a new base at Business Central – a move it said reflects its ambition to provide support to a vital sector that’s under pressure.

Jen Robbins, Head of Policy and Strategy, said: “It’s no secret that children’s services are under enormous pressure right now. Hundreds more children’s homes are needed but providers are reluctant to create new facilities when they already face issues with recruitment and retention of staff for their existing homes.

“Our role is to break down these barriers. One of our key aims is to raise awareness of the importance of roles in the sector and the positive impact people can play in the lives of children and young people. We want to shine a light on how much brilliant work goes on to counter the negative narrative we often hear about this sector.

“There are countless kind, caring and nurturing staff who do very challenging jobs but who remain passionate about making a difference and change young lives every day. We need to attract more people to these rewarding careers.”

The Children's Homes Association

The Children’s Homes Association was rebranded in 2020, having previously been known as the Independent Children’s Home Association for almost 30 years. The team has worked remotely from their homes in the North East and North West before deciding to set up a permanent office in Darlington.

Dr Mark Kerr, Deputy CEO, said close links to academia were among the deciding factors for the location choice.

He said: “We considered a base in the North West but Business Central ticks so many more boxes. Teesside University and Darlington College are our neighbours on the Central Park site and we’ve an ambition to explore potential opportunities to collaborate.

“Similar arrangements we set up in the past at the University of Kent were very successful and provided valuable experience to students embarking in a career in policy or children’s services. We’d like to replicate this model to give students and graduates the chance to contribute, gain some valuable work experience and really make an impact.

“It is a challenging time in the sector but it’s also an exciting time full of possibilities to genuinely influence things for the better.”

The organisation has increased its membership by 50 per cent in the past two years and aims to continue its growth from its Darlington base, with staff recruitment planned to resource its ambitions.

Mark added: “We are committed to persevering to get better outcomes for young people. This time next year, we will be a bigger organisation with more skills, better systems and we’ll be more streamlined.

“We’ll be striving to make sure that whatever policy is designed by Government works on the ground to make things better, not harder for those on the front line.”