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Unregulated accommodation banned for vulnerable children under 16

Children in care under 16 will no longer be allowed to be accommodated in unregulated independent or semi-independent placements, helping to ensure the most vulnerable are cared for in settings that best meet their needs. Regulations have been laid in Parliament for the ban to come into force in September, as part of the Government's response to its consultation last year aimed at ensuring the highest quality provision for all children and young people in care.

The Department for Education's response to the consultation makes clear that while independent and semi-independent provision can be the right option for some older children where it is high quality and meets their needs, children aged under 16 are too young for this type of accommodation – which is intended to facilitate supported living for older children developing their independence before they leave the care system.

In his response, the Education Secretary has also announced that plans will be developed to support local authorities in creating more places in children's homes, backed by additional investment, building on the £24 million announced at the Spending Review and recognising that there are pressures on some local authorities to find the right placement for a child.

He also confirmed that he will progress plans for legislating at the earliest opportunity to give Ofsted new powers to take enforcement action against illegal unregistered providers, who should be registered as children's homes but are operating without the correct registration in place. This will enable Ofsted to take quicker action to register or close down these homes, building on their existing powers to prosecute providers operating without the correct registration and strengthening the options available to them.

The Government will also introduce national standards for unregulated settings that are accommodating 16 and 17-year-old children in care and care leavers, to raise the bar for the quality of this provision and ensure consistency across the country. The Department for Education will shortly launch a consultation on the new national standards, so that as more older children come into the care system, a high quality option is available where they can receive the support they need to prepare for adult life.

Statistics show that across the year 2018-19 there were 660 looked after children placed in independent or in semi-independent living accommodation who were under the age of 16 when their placement started. This is 5 per cent of looked after children in these settings during 2018-19. New data show the characteristics and placements in independent or semi-independent living accommodation for looked after children under the age of 16 in England.

For the announcement, click here. For the Government response to the consultation, click here. For comment by the Children's Commissioner for England, calling for the ban to be extended to all under-18s, click here.

19/2/21