Related Sector: Health & Social Care

“Narrow boats, caravans, camping in tents” are usually synonymous with fun and enjoyable school holidays. But local authorities, are still placing children into unregulated accommodation - often many miles from their homes. And because these placements are only temporary, they can lead to continual short term moves for children in care.

Since 9 September 2021, it has been illegal to place children under 16 in independent or semi-independent settings (The Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) (Amendments) Regulations 2021). These regulations were considered by some as an important step in the right direction, tackling this serious issue of unregistered placements. However, due to the chronic shortage of registered accommodation, local authorities have found a legal loophole: that is, for the most part, placing children over 16 into these unregulated placements.

Current statistics suggest that one third of looked after children aged 16 and 17 are accommodated in unregulated settings. Most of these children have complex needs. They require a bespoke package of care and continued support from a multi-disciplinary team of professionals. Therefore, these unregulated placements are entirely unsuitable. Serving only to exacerbate the harm these children have already suffered or are currently suffering.

The regulations have failed to safeguard those children. In a blatant breach of human rights, they have created a ‘two tier system’, discriminating against the age group that are most vulnerable who have been effectively left ‘to fend for themselves’.  Not to mention the absence of or inadequate professional input. It could be said these children have been abandoned at their greatest hour of need. A process which ‘setsthem up to fail’ as they transition into adulthood.

Sadly, the courts seem reluctant to intervene, ensuring that the same equal protections in law are provided to all children in care. In March 2022 in the Queen (on the application of Article 39) v Secretary of State for Education [2022] EWHC 589, the High Court dismissed a claim that a failure by the government to ban unregulated placements for 16- and 17-year-olds was unlawful. Equally, Ofsted have not brought any prosecutions against companies operating as children’s homes without required registration. Nor is it holding local authorities to account for the quality of care and accommodation they currently provide to looked after children regardless of age.

So, whilst many of the UK’s children are enjoying blissful summer holidays camping with family or travelling in caravans, the most vulnerable have yet again been let down by the law.

If you are interested in reading about any of our children’s social care training courses such as Safeguarding Children: Social Worker’s Responsibilities and Continuing Care for Children and Young People or would like to inquire about booking a session for your staff, please get in touch with one of the team on 020 7549 2549 or 

Author: Francesca Burfield

This article was first published on 27/07/2022

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