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.
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.
Supported accommodation will continue to be used for 16 and 17-year-olds in care. Proposed new standards have been drafted without any requirement to provide care to these teenagers.