Secure Children’s Homes Target Operating Model (TOM)

The Assignment

The Department for Education (DfE) commissioned 31ten to support with the development of  a Target Operating Model (TOM) for the secure children’s homes (SCHs) estate. Secure Children’s Homes care for some of society’s most complex and vulnerable children who are restricted of their liberty by a court order. Whilst the SCH estate is a nationally used resource the thirteen homes are run independently by twelve local authorities (LAs) and one charity organisation. Therefore, the current operating practices and business models can vary greatly. In recent years demand for placements has grown and the needs of children have become increasingly complex. Within this context, the estate faces many issues impacting it’s occupancy levels, including; workforce challenges, financial constraints, a complex commissioning model, and changing strategic drivers in terms of national policy.

We completed a detailed review of the current operating model, visited all 13 SCHs across England, undertook a range of financial and performance data analysis and engaged with wider national and international stakeholders. The findings of our engagement were consolidated to provide a comprehensive overview of the current operating models and practices across the secure children’s homes (SCHs) estate. These findings informed the development of a future TOM and detailed recommendations, which were tested and iterated with key stakeholders across the SCH estate. 

The Role

The 31ten team worked with a range of stakeholders to understand the current Secure Children’s Homes context and national market. Working alongside the DfE we: 

  • Developed and tested an ‘Aspirations, Outcomes and Case for Change’ document to provide context to the current SCHs and to summarise the DfE’s vision for Secure Children’s Homes. 
  • Undertook face-to-face visits to each of the 13 SCHs across England to explore the four DfE key themes; financial sustainability; occupancy; workforce; and practice; as well as the wider (physical) establishment. 
  • Gathered information from each of the SCHs. This involved issuing a data request template, financial return, and TOM maturity self-assessment document for completion by each of the SCHs. 
  • Completed 27 virtual interviews with a wide range of senior stakeholders to understand the context of the wider SCHs estate, and gather views on current strengths, challenges, and future opportunities. 
  • Completed data analysis and consolidation of findings across each theme. We developed a series of strategic and operational recommendations focused on how the SCH estate could improve its financial sustainability and occupancy. These were tested and developed further with Registered Managers, stakeholder representatives, and the DfE through an independently chaired SCH ‘Expert Group’. 

Key Outcomes

  • Detailed comparative analysis was undertaken across the SCH estate to understand how different operational practices impacted the occupancy levels and financial sustainability of each home. 
  • DfE has a deeper understanding of the operating practices and business models across the SCH estate, including examples of best practice and areas for improvement. 
  • A set of evidence-based delivery model recommendations have been explored and tested with Registered Managers and wider stakeholders outlining the appetite for increased governance, strategic direction and operational efficiency across the SCH estate. 
  • The team have developed practical and tangible next steps for the Department to progress the programme of work. 
  • The team have outlined how the various recommendations will impact the future practice and delivery of secure care.