Putting children under the age of 16 in unregulated accommodation will become illegal, under new plans announced today by Education Secretary Gavin Williamson.
A consultation has been launched to introduce minimum quality and security standards for unregulated accommodation for under-16s, which government bosses say will help protect under-16s from being exploited.
Councils will also be required to work with local police forces when placing children out of area, and Ofsted will be given new powers to crack down on illegal unregistered providers.
This comes after BBC News revealed that children as young as 11 were being housed in these homes, which are often known as semi-independent or supported accommodation, are not inspected by a regulator in England or Wales.
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.’
Responding to the launch of the consultation, cllr Judith Blake, chair of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board, said:
‘The welfare of all children is of the utmost importance to councils, and they do all they can to find the right accommodation and support for all children in their care.
‘Good quality unregulated settings can be the right accommodation for some young people as part of their transition to independence. The increasing use of unregulated settings is being driven by shortfalls in places in registered children’s homes and other settings, particularly for young people with more complex needs. The funding crisis facing children’s services is also hindering efforts to develop and maintain the right provision locally that meets the needs of young people.
‘Making the use of unregulated settings for under 16s illegal will not solve the problem if the Government does not, first and foremost, work with councils and providers to make sure that we have enough high quality, registered places for children to live so that we can keep them safe.
‘Providers of unregulated settings must work with councils, the police and other partners to ensure the safety and wellbeing of young people, and we want to work with the Government to make sure this happens.
‘It is vital that the Government uses this consultation to better understand the pressures on accommodation for children in care and provides appropriate funding and support to ensure that the right homes in the right place are available for all children, whatever their needs.’
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