Urgent Measures Proposed For Vulnerable Children In Care

Urgent Measures Proposed For Vulnerable Children In Care

Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, announces new plan which sees a ban on vulnerable children being placed in unregulated accommodation.

In order to improve the quality of children’s social care, it will become illegal to put children under the age of 16 in unregulated housing.

In addition, strict measures will be put in place to ensure there is a minimum standard for all accommodation which is not regulated, and only provides housing, not care needs.

As part of a consultation, proposals will be put forward to stop children in care being placed in unsuitable accommodation, in order to confront serious concerns over the number of under-16s who could be at risk of exploitation.

As part of the strict new proposals, the Government will also be introducing national standards for unregulated dwellings to ensure quality standards are met and the children are safe and secure.

The consultation includes bestowing Ofsted with new legal powers so they can pinpoint illegal unregistered providers, who are those providing care for vulnerable children who have not made themselves known to appropriate authorities and registered themselves.

New strict measures will need to be adhered to which will require councils and local police to collaborate together to ensure placements are suitable for vulnerable children.

Due to the urgency of the matter, this consultation has overridden the wider upcoming care review which forms part of the Government’s manifesto – with the Education Secretary confirming the review will be independently led.

The consultation has been launched to take action imminently by investigating children’s social care to seek to better support, protect and improve the wellbeing of vulnerable children and young people.

Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson said:

“There are no circumstances where a child under 16 should be placed in accommodation that does not keep them safe. That is unacceptable and I am taking urgent action to end this practice and drive up the quality of care provided to all vulnerable children.

“Social workers and council chiefs have to make difficult decisions about the children in their care, so it’s important that we agree an ambitious approach to these important reforms to bring about lasting change in children’s social care.”

In order to eliminate poor quality standards across the board, new national standards will be introduced to set a benchmark for unregulated housing provision. The consultation will run for a period of 8 weeks to give the sector ample opportunity to air their views on measures being implemented including:

  • banning the use of independent and semi-independent placements for children and young people under the age of 16;
  • driving up the quality of support offered in independent and semi-independent provision, through the introduction of national standards;
  • ensuring young people’s interests are appropriately represented by their Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO);
  • introducing new measures so that local authorities and local police forces liaise before a placement in this provision is made; and
  • giving Ofsted new legal powers to crack down on illegal providers.

Over 6,000 looked-after children and young people in England are residing in unregulated accommodation and as many as up to 100 under16s are living in unregulated housing at any one time.

Yvette Stanley, Ofsted’s National Director for Social Care, said:

“We welcome this consultation and await the outcome with interest. Ofsted has long-held concerns about the rise of unregistered children’s homes. Some of our most vulnerable children are living in places where we don’t know if the people caring for them are suitable or skilled enough to meet their needs – this isn’t acceptable. We’ve also called for better assurance about the quality of unregulated provision for older children. We need a system where children are getting high quality care and support, with the right level of oversight. Ofsted stands ready to play its full part in achieving this.”

Mark Russell, Chief Executive at The Children’s Society, said:

“The numbers of children being placed in unregulated accommodation is on the rise, making this consultation both timely and essential. We are pleased the government is looking carefully at this issue and recognising the wider issues at play, such as the shortage of places where they’re most needed.

“Children are often placed in these settings in an emergency and out of their home area, where they may not get the support they need and can be at particular risk of going missing and being criminally or sexually exploited. All accommodation for children in care has to be suitable for their needs and no child should be placed in accommodation where they are not safe. It’s vital that quality standards are introduced across the board. This consultation should lead to tangible changes which address these issues and ensure all children get the help they deserve.”

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