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


28 October 2023care-less accommodation now officially part of the children’s care system.

25 October 2023show you care, please write to your MP.

23 October 2023meet the people trying to fix the law for children in care.

23 October 2023child protection report reveals nature of serious harms in care.

Please join us in pressing for all looked after children to receive care where they live.

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 consents themselves if they are aged 16 or 17. 

#KeepCaringTo18 campaign guiding principles:

  1. If a child is looked after by the state, they should receive care where they live – 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 affecting them. 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 to the same high standards. 
  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 be made to follow the children’s homes regulations and quality standards, which already apply to children up to age 18 and beyond.
  6. Government must provide sufficient financial resources for local authorities to meet their statutory duties to all looked after children.

Early in February 2020, the Department for Education launched a public consultation on regulating semi-independent and independent accommodation for children in care and care leavers. This followed widespread and serious concerns about children’s safety and well-being in unregulated accommodation. At that time, official statistics showed there were 90 children in care aged 15 and under living in unregulated accommodation, and 5,990 children in care aged 16 and 17. In May 2019, BBC Newsnight started its ‘Britain’s Hidden Children’s Homes’ campaign (see here). The vast majority of Newsnight’s case studies of children and young people dying or suffering serious harm concerned those aged 16 and over.

On 19 February 2021, in response to its consultation, the Department for Education announced that it would ban the use of unregulated accommodation for children in care only for those aged 15 and younger. This came into force in September 2021. New standards for semi-independent and independent accommodation for children in care aged 16 and 17 were promised, together with Ofsted registration and inspection.

Two more consultations followed – the first between May and July 2021, the second between December 2022 and January 2023 – dealing with new standards for unregulated accommodation for 16 and 17 year-olds in and leaving care.

In September 2020, the Children’s Commissioner for England published a report which 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”. 

Current position
The result of all this policy development is:

– What was once called semi-independent and independent accommodation is now called supported accommodation for looked after children and care leavers aged 16 and 17.
– There are four official categories of supported accommodation for looked after children and care leavers aged 16 and 17: category 1, which is where children live in “a self-contained unit” (a bedsit or flat, for instance); category 2, which is where children live in accommodation with care experienced adults (the policy is not entirely clear but the upper age limit of these adults appears to be 25); category 3, which is where children live in accommodation with adults of any age; and category 4, which is where children live “in a private residence” known as supported lodgings (separate from fostering arrangements).
– There is no requirement to provide care to children in any of the four categories of supported accommodation. (This is why the #KeepCaringTo18 campaign refers to it as ‘care-less accommodation’). Were providers to give both care and accommodation to children, they would be required under primary legislation to register their establishment as a children’s home and to follow residential child care requirements in the children’s homes regulations which have developed over many decades (they were last comprehensively revised in 2015).
– Unlike children’s homes, which are each inspected by Ofsted at least once every 12-15 months, only a selection of supported accommodation will be inspected, and the minimum frequency of inspections will be every three years.
– Providers of supported accommodation have to follow four quality standards compared to nine quality standards for children’s homes.
– Government has not ruled out caravans, tents, holiday lodges, boats and barges being officially registered by Ofsted as a form of supported accommodation for children in care and care leavers aged 16 and 17.
– There is no curtailment on profit-making in this expanding market. The Competition and Markets Authority reviewed the 15 largest providers in the children’s care system, and found this type of accommodation to be the most lucrative, with an average profit margin of 35.5% in 2020. This compared to an average profit margin of 22.6% for children’s homes, and 19.4% for fostering.
– From 28 October 2023, it is unlawful for local authorities to house a looked after child or care leaver aged 16 and 17 in one of the four categories of supported accommodation, if the provider has not submitted a full registration application to Ofsted.
– In the first year following new legal protection for children in care aged 15 and under, there was a 5% increase in the proportion of older children in care living in care-less accommodation. Latest official data show that 37% of all 16 and 17 year-olds in care in England live in care-less accommodation. That’s 7,470 children.


  • The 4Front Project
  • AFRUCA-Safeguarding Children
  • The AIRE Centre – litigating the rights of children in care in England and Europe
  • Alliance for Youth Justice
  • Article 39
  • The Association of Child Protection Professionals
  • Association of Panel Members
  • Association of Professors of Social Work
  • Asylum Aid
  • Baker & Joy
  • Baobab Centre for Young Survivors in Exile
  • Become
  • Black Lives Matter UK
  • British Association of Social Workers England
  • Care Experienced Conference
  • The Care Leavers’ Association
  • Changing Outcomes 
  • Children and Families Across Borders
  • Children England
  • Children’s Rights Alliance for England
  • Community Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers (CARAS)
  • Coram Voice
  • Equal Education
  • Every Child Leaving Care Matters
  • ECPAT UK (Every Child Protected Against Trafficking)
  • Family Action
  • Family Rights Group
  • The Fostering Network
  • FosterSupport
  • G&S Caring for Children and Young People
  • HeadandHeart Therapeutic Services
  • Isabel’s Voice
  • Just for Kids Law
  • Leap Confronting Conflict
  • Leeds Lifelong Links
  • Lighthouse Fostering
  • More than Grandparents
  • Nagalro
  • National Association of Independent Reviewing Officers (NAIRO)
  • National Association for Youth Justice
  • National Centre for Excellence in Residential Child Care
  • National IRO Managers Partnership (NIROMP)
  • National Youth Advocacy Service (NYAS)
  • National Youth Agency
  • Nexus Chambers
  • No Borders Training/The Adoption & Fostering Podcast
  • Noor Homes
  • Norman Galloway Homes
  • Pause
  • Phoenix Caring Ltd
  • The POTATO Group
  • Prospect Training and Consultancy
  • Reclaim Care
  • Rees Foundation
  • Refugee Council
  • Reshapers CIC
  • Roots of Connection
  • Siblings Together
  • Social Workers Union
  • Social Workers Without Borders
  • Stand up Speak up
  • TACT
  • Together with Migrant Children
  • Together Trust
  • Umbrella Wellness Ltd
  • XYP Childcare Ltd
  • Young Lives Foundation
  • Youth Legal & Resource Centre

#KeepCaringTo18 campaign steering group
– Annie Gibbs, Amour Destiné
– Carolyne Willow, Article 39
– David Graham, The Care Leavers’ Association
– Denise Rawls, National Network for the Education of Care Leavers
– Jim Goddard, The Care Leavers’ Association
– Joshua Williams, National Youth Advocacy Service (NYAS)
– Joy Bradley, independent consultant (children’s residential care)
– Lucy Croxton, Together Trust
– Dr Lynn Brady, independent advocate and independent person for Children Act complaints
– Rebekah Pierre, care experienced person and British Association of Social Workers (BASW)
– Sian Edwards, National Network for the Education of Care Leavers