Unregulated care homes for children under 16 illegal from Septemberon February 19, 2021 at 11:56 am

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Placing children under 16 into unregulated homes will be made illegal in England, the government says.

Unregulated homes for children in care under the age of 16 will become illegal in England from September.

BBC News investigations revealed that children as young as 11 were being housed in these homes, and young people faced “organised abuse” in placements.

The ban does not affect thousands of placements of 16 and 17 year-olds in unregulated homes.

Children’s minister Vicky Ford said “every child deserves a stable and loving home”.

Unregulated homes, often known as semi-independent or supported accommodation, are not inspected by a regulator in England or Wales.

But increasingly, local authorities are placing children in care under the age of 16 in unregulated homes – which are only qualified to offer support and not full-time care.

In 2019, as part of a series of BBC News investigations into unregulated homes, it was revealed that young people faced “organised abuse” while living in these placements.

At the time, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “The BBC highlighted something that just needed to be changed.”

Ms Ford now says the law will change from September.

“Children under the age of 16 can no longer be placed in an unregulated children’s home”, she said.

“This will drive up the standard for children under 16 but also we want to drive up the standards for those aged 16 and 17 as well.”

The children’s minister admitted the change would only affect about 100 children currently under the age of 16 who are on placement inside an unregulated home.

About 6,000 young people over the age of 16 are on placement inside such homes.

“[For] some 16 and 17-year-olds this journey towards independence can be helped by moving into an independent or semi-independent setting”, Ms Ford said. “But it’s got to be a good setting and so we’re going to be introducing new national standards.”

The government also says it aims to legislate to give Ofsted greater powers to take enforcement action against illegal unregistered providers.

In 2019, BBC News revealed that Ofsted had not prosecuted a single provider for accepting placements of children under the age of 16.

Earlier this week, Children’s Commissioner for England Anne Longfield said UK ministers held an “institutional bias against children” in her final speech after six years in the role.

However, Ms Ford said she “completely disagrees” and that vulnerable children have been safeguarded.

“Throughout the pandemic, we’ve absolutely put vulnerable children at the heart of our response”, she said. “I’m very proud that we’re one of the few countries in the world that kept schools open for vulnerable children throughout.”

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