The Department for Education has today (19 Feb) announced a partial ban on placing children in care into unregulated accommodation, applying only to children aged 15 and under, which will come into force from September.
As part of our ‘Regulate’ campaign, NYAS have been urging the government to ban the use of unregulated accommodation for all children in care. The announcement today excludes 16 and 17-year-olds, who will be the subject of yet another consultation process later this year.
After campaigning on the issue and connecting care-experienced young people with the initial consultation, NYAS is disappointed to see 16- and 17-year olds excluded from the care they deserve. There were 6,190 children living in unregulated accommodation on 31 March 2019. Of these, only 90 were aged 15 and under.
NYAS had urged the government to include interim safeguards during the pandemic such as an active offer of advocacy for children entering semi-independent or independent living; a ‘do no harm’ principle; and a requirement for residential visiting advocacy. While no long-term solution has been found for unregulated accommodation, these short-term safeguards have not been implemented either. If adopted, these measures would uphold the rights of care-experienced children and young people and make them safer.
To ensure accommodation was considered within the existing regulatory framework, NYAS had further advised that every provider be subjected to formal Regulation 44 visits. This entails an independent person visiting the home, writing a monthly report on how the home is operating and listing any concerns and agreeing an action plan with the providers. This would complement Ofsted inspections, and NYAS also suggested that providers could access funds from the government to ease the shift to regulation.
While NYAS was invited to take part in the Task and Finish Group on this topic led by Sir Alan Wood, the group has rarely been able to meet. The conclusions drawn by the government in relation to unregulated accommodation do not reflect our position or that of the children and young people who we connected with the consultation.
Rita Waters, NYAS Chief Executive, has today written to the Education Secretary to ask him to urgently consider extending the ban on unregulated accommodation and to ensure it includes all children up to the age of 18.
Rita said: “We are appalled to see 16- and 17-year olds excluded from the guarantee of the care and security that the care system should exist to provide. These proposals fail thousands of children who are in urgent need of support. We continue to urge the government to ban unregulated accommodation for all children in care. I ask anyone delaying or denying the need for a ban: would you be comfortable placing your own child in an unregulated home?”