For too long, young and vulnerable people who have needed care and support have sometimes been accommodated in unregulated, independent or semi-independent placements. Sometimes these venues have not met the needs of the young people, often coming from troubled backgrounds and requiring high levels of assistance to bounce back.
Today Gavin Williamson, Secretary of State for Education announced that rom September a ban will be in place, so any young person under 16 will need to be in regulated accommodation. He will be supporting this by helping local authorities create ore children’s homes and moving forward with plans to help Ofsted tackle illegal and unregistered providers. Children’s homes are the right place for may young and looked after children who were not served well in unregulated, independent properties.
For older children, ones in their late teens that can live more independently, national standards will also be set in place for the unregulated settings they are moved into. This should help raise the bar and stop cycles where a young person remains in accommodation, jobless, not in education and unable to look after themselves until they age out of the system. All accommodation will be focussed upon helping young people boost their opportunities and get ready for the world of work and independence.
While statistics showed that around 660 children under 16 were in unregulated accommodation (about 5% of all looked after children) it was clear this type of placement was not working well for all young people.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said:
Vulnerable children under 16 are too young for the type of accommodation that provides a place to stay but not the care and support that they need. The action taken today – supported by the sector and in response to their views – is an important step in making sure children in care are placed in settings that give them the highest chances of success.
We know that for some older young people, independent or semi-independent accommodation can be right in helping them transition to adult life – but these settings need to be consistently high quality. We cannot be complacent about the standards we expect to be met for children in our care.
The Government’s drive to raise standards and level up opportunities for the most vulnerable in society sits alongside an investment of almost £4.4 million to extend Covid-19 response programmes run by major children’s charities aimed at reaching ‘hidden’ children who may face neglect or exploitation, especially while they spend more time at home.
This work adds to plans to create a National Centre for Family Hubs that will improve families’ access to vital services across the country, and the confirmation from November’s Spending Review of an additional £24 million investment in 2021-22 to expand capacity within secure children’s homes, as well as £165 million funding for the Government’s Troubled Families Programme.
A wide ranging and independent review into children’s social care is also taking place, hopefully this will bring new recommendations to improve the system for young people and associated staff so that all have a better outcome.