Residential care for social reasons

Ian Sinclair and Ian Gibbs Introduction

The characteristics of residential care Problems of residential care Improving the quality of residential.. care Future of residential care Conclusions

Chapter References Introduction

Residential care for the young is an elusive object of study. Provided in the past by establishments as diverse as workhouses, orphanages, and reformatories, it has no clear definition marking its boundaries with foster care or boarding education; at the same time it variously aims to shelter, classify, control, and reform and it has no agreed theory or body of values. The need for residential care, and the difficulties of providing it, vary with time and place; the issues it raises are quite different in Rwanda than they are in California, or were in Victorian England.

Given this diversity, any discussion of residential care needs to outline the context within which it was written. In the case of this chapter the context is provided by current British social policy. Although the focus is on residential care provided to young people by English social services departments for social reasons, the conclusions drawn are generalizable to the rest of the United Kingdom. The issues raised by this provision have similarities in other parts of the developed world, in virtually all of which the use of residential care is declining. (!,,2) This chapter is written against the background of this decline. Its aims are as follows:

• to describe the current characteristics of English, and by extension British, residential care

• to outline the problems that have led to its numerical decline

• to identify practices that should overcome or reduce these problems

• to discuss the role that residential care might play in future.

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