NYAS (National Youth Advocacy Service) has written an open letter to Children’s Minister, Nadhim Zahawi in response to an interview on this week’s BBC Newsnight programme regarding unregulated and unregistered care settings for young people aged 16 and over.

During the interview, Mr Zahawi said he wanted to look at ways of eliminating the ‘rogue element’ in this type of supported accommodation. This came following a BBC Newsnight investigation, which found that increasing numbers of young people are being sent to unregulated care settings outside their home borough. These are young people who, according to the police, are more likely to go missing and, as a result, are at high risk of criminal exploitation.

The Children’s Minister has confirmed that Department of Education officials are looking at the licensing and registering of the care settings in question.

In its written response to the BBC Newsnight feature, addressed directly to Nadhim Zahawi, NYAS welcomes the Minister’s instruction to the civil service to look into licensing and regulation and goes on to raise a number of points to assist in that work.

Rita Waters, NYAS CEO explains, “It is clear that much greater scrutiny of unregulated care provision is required, and we are asking that the Department of Education champions the role of independent visits to children’s homes in any response to growing concerns around care settings of this type. With registered children’s homes, Ofsted inspections are complemented by more frequent ‘Regulation 44’ visits, a service provided by NYAS. Our Reg.44 independent visitors review the facilities and the performance of the staff, and they talk to children and young people to ensure they are getting the best possible care.

“Importantly, we also want to draw the Minister’s attention to our current Missing the Point campaign, which was recently launched in parliament. The campaign is fundamentally about carers and corporate parents listening to children and taking them seriously. We would urge Mr Zahawi to consider our campaign recommendations in any action taken to reduce missing episodes and the risk of exploitation.”

The charity has now offered to meet with the Children’s Minister to share its extensive experience of both children’s homes visits and Return Interviews for care-experienced children and young people