Accommodation for 16 and 17-year-olds will face less scrutiny than children’s homes despite urgent calls to improve standards, it has been revealed.
The report comes after the Children’s Commissioner called to end unregulated care placements for under 18s in September last year.
According to the independent review, entitled Unregulated: Children in care living in semi-independent accommodation, thousands of vulnerable young people between the age of 16 and 18 are living in unregulated independent or semi-independent accommodation, such as bedsits, hostels and even caravans, across the UK.
The review added that these settings are “not inspected” and often go without regular support from adults, significantly reducing positive outcomes for children in care.
Commenting on the findings, Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield said: “These looked after children are entitled to ‘support’ but not ‘care’, and as a result are too often being left to fend for themselves, with minimal support, for all but a few hours a week.”
But the latest social care plans, published by the Department for Education (DfE), would continue to see placements for under 18s less heavily regulated than children’s care.
Under the proposals, the provision of accommodation for 16 and 17-year-olds would be subject to just four regulatory standards, compared with nine for children’s homes.
The four standards relate to leadership and management, protection, support, accommodation, quality and purpose of care, children’s views, wishes and feelings, education, enjoyment and achievement, health and wellbeing, positive relationships, and care planning, but not “continuity of care”.
The requirement that “the home’s day-to-day care is arranged and delivered so as to keep each child safe and to protect each child effectively from harm” has also been omitted.
Commenting on the proposals, the British Association of Social Workers England said all unregulated accommodation should be banned, but in a considered and proportionate way.
“We recognise that immediately banning unregulated care homes, despite the harms and risks associated with them, would lead to a short-term lack of placements for children and young people leaving care settings and in turn may cause further crisis and trauma in their lives.
“In this consultation we’ll be calling for the government to make significant, long-term investment in children and young people across the country. This requires support services for vulnerable children and care leavers requiring urgent resources, both during and beyond the pandemic.”
To access the DfE proposals, please click here.
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