Government to regulate absence of care from age 16

The Department for Education has published the outcome of its consultation earlier this year on standards for accommodation for children in care aged 16 and 17 in England.

Article 39’s Director, Carolyne Willow, responds:

“Today’s government response to its consultation on care-less standards continues the development and consolidation of a new market for providers wishing to run properties for children in care aged 16 and 17 without having to follow the quality standards for children’s homes. Instead of making providers follow these existing standards, perhaps with modifications when establishments only care for children approaching adulthood, ministers are pressing ahead with an alternative, rudimentary set of standards which are devoid of any requirement to provide care to children. How can it possibly be acceptable for children to be in the care of the state and not receive any care where they live? 

“The inspection arrangements are similarly second-rate in that only a sample of properties from any single provider will be inspected by Ofsted, rather than each place where children in care live. This is despite respondents to the consultation warning that this risks poor practice being missed, and the voices of children not being heard. 

“Moreover, ministers have ruled out bringing an end to children living in properties alongside adults who often have their own very profound difficulties and vulnerabilities. Last year, the Children’s Commissioner for England raised the alarm of children in care living in accommodation with adults who have recently left prison, who are struggling with addictions and who have mental health difficulties. The risks to children are substantial and obvious.

“None of today’s announcement was unexpected, though that doesn’t take away the fear and upset. I’m sure that, at some point in the future, we will collectively as a country look back to this time with huge regret and dismay and wonder what on earth possessed us to regulate the children’s care system to officially stop caring at age 16. There is no comfort in expecting this to be remedied at a later date, however, since many thousands of children will have suffered by then.”

– The consultation outcome can be found here.
– Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi’s letter to Ofsted’s Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman here.
– Care experienced young people’s views (obtained as part of consultation) here.
– Analytical report here.
– Article 39’s response to the consultation (15 July 2021) can be found here (despite not being listed in Annex A, we did submit to the consultation and received an acknowledgement at the time).
– #KeepCaringTo18 petition here.
– You can support our legal challenge here.