In February 2020, the Department for Education announced a new consultation on the use of unregulated accommodation for children in care and care leavers. Following a number of damning reports on the treatment of children in settings, DfE wanted to gain views on a number of proposals, including:
- banning using this provision for under 16s
- introducing national quality standards
- ensuring independent reviewing officers represent young people’s interests
- requiring local authorities and police forces to cooperate with each other
- new legal powers for Ofsted to take action against illegal providers
Alongside the formal consultation for organisations and professionals, the Department for Education invited care experienced people to share their views and experiences of unregulated accommodation.
Leicestershire Cares worked with five participants on their leaving care projects to help them submit their views to DfE. You can read their responses in the document below, but in summary they:
- supported ending the use of independent and semi-independent provision for children under the age of 16. The young people we spoke to often struggled with the move to independent living at the age of 16 or older, and unanimously felt that any child under the age of 16 need to be cared for, not simply supported in unregulated accommodation. They also felt that children aged 15 and under would not have the skills, emotional resilience or support networks to live independently.
- highlighted that young people should only move into unregulated accommodation when they are ready, and should be supported to develop the skills needed to sustain this. Young people need to be able to make informed decisions about whether they move into unregulated accommodation, the difference between (semi-)independent living and being in foster care or a children’s home, and which property/provision they move into. Young people we consulted with spoke about making snap decisions to move into unregulated accommodation, or feeling pressured to take the first property they saw or was offered to them as they were told that accommodation was in high demand. This led to situations where young people ended up moving away from their existing support networks into properties where they felt isolated, unsafe and at risk of being exploited.
- supported the introduction of new standards for unregulated accommodation. In terms of quality of provision, young people emphasised that accommodation needed to be clean and of a decent quality. Security was also important, with young people stating that locks on bedroom doors is a must, and they want to feel safe in their home. Having the opportunity to bring in furnishings and create a space that feels like a home was also important. In terms of the support offer, young people emphasised that staff need to be open and friendly, approachable and willing to understand things from their perspective. They want to be taught the skills needed to budget, clean and manage a home (particularly money management) and feel it is important that staff encourage young people to engage in education, training and/or employment.
Read young people’s responses to the government consultation here: Unregulated Accommodation Consultation