#KeepCaringTo18

Support our campaign to make it law that every looked after child 
receives care until at least their 18th birthday

LATEST

19 February 2021 – Department for Education announces that it will only ban unregulated accommodation for children in care aged 15 and under (to be brought into force in September 2021). It is going to consult this year on national standards for unregulated accommodation for 16 and 17 year-olds in care, intending for it to become regulated via an “Ofsted-led registration and inspection scheme” (though it has not indicated what this may entail). These new national standards will deliberately omit care. This is because establishments which provide children with care and accommodation must register as children’s homes and be inspected by Ofsted. Today’s announcement therefore formally creates a two-tier care system, it legitimates the absence of care for 16 and 17 year-olds in care, and effectively reduces the leaving care age to 16. (The Department for Education consultation outcome document can be read here).

6 January 2021 – Children’s Commissioner for England repeats her call for unregulated accommodation to be banned for all children in care (Guardian piece here). Seventeen year-old Hakeem speaks about his experiences of living in unregulated accommodation, with his request to “please find me, someone, to live with who is going to college”. Hakeem further explained: “In my experiences in B&Bs, in hostels, including when I lived in a hostel with my family and my little brother when I was at school, we were all black” (Guardian piece here).

We are asking organisations and concerned individuals to join us in ensuring that all looked after children and young people receive care, wherever they are living.

Under domestic and international law, a child is a person under the age of 18. 

Children are ‘looked after’ when a family court has made an order giving parental responsibility to a local authority, or when they are ‘accommodated’ with permission from parents/carers or the child if they are aged 16 or over. 

The #KeepCaringTo18 steering group is seeking your support for the following guiding principles to be upheld:

  1. If a child is being looked after by the state, they should receive care – up to at least 18 years.
  2. All children need care for their well-being and development, and this can be provided alongside respect for growing autonomy.
  3. Children, young people and care leavers must be at the heart of policy development in this area. This includes those who are currently in secure settings and those who have had extremely difficult experiences in care. 
  4. All forms of accommodation for looked after children must be regulated and inspected. 
  5. We reject the creation of two tiers of children’s residential care. The regulation of supported accommodation for looked after children must include a guarantee of care. One obvious way forward is for these settings to follow the children’s homes regulations and standards, which already apply to children up to age 18 and beyond.
  6. The government must provide sufficient financial resources for local authorities to meet their statutory duties to all looked after children.

If you or your organisation would be willing to add your name to publicly support us in pressing for safe, caring and supportive homes for all children in care, please complete the following.


Background
Early in February 2020, the Department for Education started a public consultation on regulating semi-independent and independent accommodation for children in care and care leavers. This followed widespread and serious concerns, which were taken up by BBC Newsnight whose first ‘Britain’s Hidden Children’s Homes’ programme was broadcast in May 2019 (see here).

The government’s consultation closed in early June 2020. On 19 February 2021, it announced that it will only ban unregulated accommodation for children in care aged 15 and under (to be brought into force in September 2021). The Department for Education is going to consult during 2021 on national standards for unregulated accommodation for 16 and 17 year-olds in care, intending for it to become regulated via an “Ofsted-led registration and inspection scheme” (though it has not indicated what this may entail). These new national standards will deliberately omit care. This is because establishments which provide children with care and accommodation must register as children’s homes and be inspected by Ofsted. Today’s announcement therefore formally creates a two-tier care system, it legitimates the absence of care for 16 and 17 year-olds in care, and effectively reduces the leaving care age to 16. (The Department for Education consultation outcome document can be read here).

Only 1.5% of children living in semi-independent and independent accommodation are under the age of 16 (90 out of 6,190 children on 31 March 2019), meaning the government’s proposals would leave the vast majority of children in this kind of accommodation without care. This is because the law states that establishments providing care and accommodation to children must register and be inspected as children’s homes.

In September 2020, the Children’s Commissioner for England published a report about children in care living in unregulated accommodation. This report reiterated the concerns about very vulnerable children being exploited and abused in unregulated accommodation that were raised by BBC Newsnight.

The Children’s Commissioner recommended that the use of semi-independent and independent provision should be made unlawful for all children in care: “No child under the age of 18 should be placed in an unregulated setting. All children aged under 18 should receive care, rather than support. As such, there should be a requirement that any setting they are placed in is regulated as a children’s home”.

The outcome of the government consultation, and whether the evidence it has received has altered the Department for Education’s February 2020 proposals in any way, is still not known. However, in response to a recent question in the House of Lords about when they plan to respond to the Children’s Commissioner’s report, the government’s representative was only able to answer that they would respond to the consultation “in due course”, and that 16- & 17-year olds will continue to be placed in accommodation where they cannot, by law, receive care. (The Hansard record of the debate is here).

Time is passing while looked after children continue to live in unsuitable, unregulated and unsafe accommodation. 

CAMPAIGN SUPPORTERS (organisations)

  • The AIRE Centre – litigating the rights of children in care in England and Europe
  • Article 39
  • Association of Professors of Social Work
  • Asylum Aid
  • Baker & Joy
  • Baobab Centre for Young Survivors in Exile
  • Become
  • Care Experienced Conference
  • The Care Leavers’ Association
  • Children and Families Across Borders
  • Equal Education
  • Every Child Leaving Care Matters
  • The Fostering Network
  • Isabel’s Voice
  • Just for Kids Law
  • Nagalro
  • National Association of Independent Reviewing Officers (NAIRO)
  • National Centre for Excellence in Residential Child Care
  • National IRO Managers Partnership (NIROMP)
  • Noor Homes
  • Norman Galloway Homes
  • Phoenix Caring Ltd
  • Prospect Training and Consultancy
  • Roots of Connection
  • Siblings Together
  • Young Lives Foundation
  • Youth Legal & Resource Centre