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Education Select Committee calls for ban on B & Bs for care leavers

Staying Put initiative should be extended to children’s home residents

The Commons Select Committee on Education has published its report Into independence, not out of care: 16 plus care options.

The inquiry into 16 plus care options was motivated by two issues: that 'other arrangements' are unsuitable and that the current Staying Put policy (for which a guide has just been published) is inequitable. The committee syas that evidence to the inquiry, as well as informal discussions with young people, confirmed that these concerns are certainly justified and, if anything, underestimate the gravity of the situation.

In the view of the committee, the suitability and safety of 'other arrangements' must improve. Accommodation that falls within the category of 'other arrangements' is not inspected. It is recommended that the DfE consult on a framework of individual regulatory oversight for all accommodation provision that falls within the category 'other arrangements'.

The committee calls for an outright ban on B&Bs and recommends that the DfE consult urgently with local authorities on a reasonable timeframe in which to introduce this, alongside a strengthened requirement for local authorities to commission sufficient alternative emergency facilities.

The current Staying Put policy, the committee notes, applies only to looked after young people living in foster care. Young people living in residential children's homes are often the most vulnerable and should have the right to remain there beyond the age of 18. Therefore it recommends that the DfE extends Staying Put to these settings.

Legislation entitles care leavers to continuing accommodation support in 'other arrangements' up to the age of 21. However, the provisions are unclear, insufficient and all too often overlooked. The DfE should issue explicit guidance on young people's right to stay in 'other arrangements' until they are 21.

The committee considers that a model of Staying Close presents the opportunity for young people to gain the independent living arrangements that they often crave at the age of 16 or 17, whilst retaining the physical proximity, professional support and valued connections with staff and friends in former residential children's home that they may be anxious to leave behind. Such existing models should be examined by the DfE and, if they are shown to lead to improved outcomes for young people, best practice guidance should be issued on a model of Staying Close.

In addition to these fundamental recommendations, the report sets out the necessary steps to ensure that there are improvements in the planning and preparation of, and stability and support for, young people as they move to greater independence.

The report is here.

17/7/14