A new campaign in response to the government’s consultation on unregulated accommodation for children in care and care leavers
We believe every child in care – including 16 and 17 year-olds – should receive care. Our campaign has three goals:
- For it to be law that every child looked after receives care until their 18th birthday.
- Raising awareness of the Department for Education’s consultation among care experienced people, parliamentarians and the wider public.
- Supporting new standards for semi-independent and independent accommodation for care leavers aged 18 and beyond, with registration and inspection by Ofsted.
19 March 2020 – we received a response from the Children’s Minister, rejecting our call to extend the public consultation so children and young people can meaningfully participate. The Minister also refused to suspend the work of Alan Wood’s Task and Finish Group which directly relates to the consultation. However, the Minister stated the consultation time period “will be reviewed in light of COVID-19”. We are waiting to hear the outcome of this review.
18 March 2020 – 91 organisations and individual experts urge the Children’s Minister to meaningfully consult children and young people. The letter also asks that work by a new Task and Finish Group is suspended while the consultation takes place. Read the letter here.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) statement, 17 March 2020
Public services, and the care system in particular, are facing extreme pressures and uncertainties with COVID-19. We fully understand and respect that the first priority of carers and services is to help children and young people stay safe and healthy. While the public consultation is still happening, and has not been withdrawn, we will press for an extended time period. However, given the circumstances, a postponement of the consultation may well be the best option for all concerned, particularly given the logistical challenges for organisations planning to consult children and young people. Meanwhile, we urge the Government to reiterate to local authorities the legal position that use of ‘other arrangements’ for children in care (up to age 18) should be the exception and that each placement must meet each individual child’s needs and safeguard and promote their welfare. We further anticipate that Ministers will offer strategic and funding support to local authorities to ensure children are only ever placed in settings which meet professional childcare standards.
WHY WE SET UP OUR CAMPAIGN
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. Article 39’s summary of the proposals can be found here.
The legal definition of children is people up to the age of 18 years. We know that teenagers don’t like to be referred to as children, because this often feels disrespectful and patronising. We’re using the word in its legal sense. Everyone under the age of 18 has rights under the Children Act 1989 and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, also agreed in 1989.
Most children looked after by local authorities live with foster carers. A small proportion live in children’s homes. These are registered with Ofsted; they are inspected by Ofsted; and they have to follow legal rules, called regulations. They also receive monthly visits by an independent person.
Children in care also live in what’s called supported accommodation. These are houses or flats which can be ‘independent living’ or ‘semi-independent living’. Staff are employed to support children. However, they are not – by law – allowed to give care. There are no legal rules covering staff qualifications or background checks. Those who run this type of accommodation do not have to register with Ofsted, and Ofsted does not inspect this type of accommodation.
If staff working in supported accommodation provide care to children, then the home must either be registered as a children’s home or close. This is because the law says that any establishment offering care and accommodation to children must register as a children’s home.
The Department for Education is proposing that councils be banned from placing children under the age of 16 in supported accommodation.
16 and 17 year-olds will still be able to live in supported accommodation, which will have to follow new standards. However, the proposed new standards do not include care.