Ofsted (Office for Standards in Education) has published a new report including data on children’s homes, serious incidents, and unregistered accommodation in England, covering the period March 2022-23. Ofsted are responsible for inspecting education and children’s services in England to make sure that all children and young people receive the best quality of education and care. The data released raises concerns for children’s residential care in England.

An increase in homes, but national shortage of places persists

Ofsted’s data shows that since March 2022, there has been a 9% increase in the number of children’s residential homes across the country, meaning that there are more places for children to live. Although this sounds promising, residential homes remain unevenly distributed across the country. In the North-West of England, there are 746 children’s homes compared to only 164 in the London area.

When local authorities cannot find suitable accommodation for children, it is likely that the child will be moved to live outside of their local area.  This means that children are moved far from their support circles and unable to attend their normal education settings or have regular contact with friends and family. 

The data for secure children’s homes paints an equally worrying picture. There are still only 13 secure children’s homes across England, offering a total of just 204 places. In last year’s data summary, it was reported that at any one time, around 50 children each day were waiting for a place in a secure children’s home. Similar data for 2023 has not been reported on.

Ofsted have highlighted that in London and the West Midlands there are no secure homes. This means that for children living in these areas who need therapeutic care, their only option is to be moved away from their local area. NYAS’ research series offers more insight into the challenges facing secure children’s homes, with reforms to this type of care urgently needed.

Care-experienced children continue to be criminalised and exploited

All children’s homes in England must report serious incidents to Ofsted. 30,200 incidents were reported to Ofsted from children’s residential homes over the past year, with 26% of these incidents involving police call outs. Not all these incidents involving the police were because a child was acting unlawfully. The data shows that half of police call outs related to situations where a child was reported as missing or was a victim of exploitation. It is however unclear from the data how many police incidents specifically involved children being criminalised and what the outcomes of these incidents were.

Care-experienced children are 15 times more likely to be criminalised compared to their peers and around one quarter of all adults in prison in England are care-experienced. It is important for the data released to clearly state why police are being called out to children’s homes and the outcomes of these calls, so children’s charities like NYAS can help to reduce the number of care-experienced children entering the criminal justice system.

The use of unregistered accommodation remains a serious concern

Any type of accommodation that provides care for a child or young person must legally notify Ofsted so they can become a registered care provider. When this does not happen it means the accommodation is unregistered and that is illegal in England. Despite this, unregistered and unsuitable accommodation is still being used in England.

Between March 2022-23, Ofsted conducted 460 investigations into unregistered accommodation. 71% of unregistered home placements were used because local authorities could not find suitable accommodation for children and more than 1 in 10 of unregistered placements were found to be holiday rental homes. Placing children in these types of accommodation is illegal and breaking their UNCRC Article 27 right to an adequate standard of living.

Ofsted reportedly found that 77% of all placements investigated should have been registered, and these placements have now either received a final letter of notice or have been shut down. It is unclear from the data, however, how many of these unregistered placements are still actively accommodating children. This is concerning because it means that children are still living in unsuitable accommodation, and they are not receiving the best care that they are legally entitled to.

The data published by Ofsted raises concerns over the state of children’s residential care in England. NYAS is urging the UK Government to take immediate action to make sure that:

  • There are enough registered children’s homes in England to end the use of unregistered accommodation
  • To take a stronger approach to providers or local authorities placing children in unregistered accommodation


You can read the full data report from Ofsted here.