Placing children in unregulated homes to be banned
Education secretary Gavin Williamson has announced that the placement of children under the age of 16 in unregulated care homes will be banned.
Williamson’s decision follows a BBC investigation which found that children as young as eleven were being placed in unregistered homes.
While councils have a duty to place children in registered homes or with foster carers, they are increasingly resorting to unregulated homes which are not legally allowed to provide care. According to Ofsted, such homes are only legally allowed to provide "support."
In their report, however, the BBC found that a loophole had been exploited which allowed children to be placed in unregulated homes while on holiday.
Alongside the pledge to ban the placement of children in unregulated homes, Williamson also launched a consultation to award Ofsted with greater powers to tackle unregistered homes and establish compulsory national standards to improve conditions.
While Ofsted does have the power to prosecute providers, the BBC have reported that although 150 investigations had been conducted, none led to a prosecution.
Announcing this move, Williamson said: “I think anyone with compassion in their heart realises [it’s] not right…I wouldn’t want this for my children or anyone else’s.
“If a local authority thinks they can continue to place children in those types of environment, quite simply they will have those powers withdrawn in order to be able to continue to look after children’s services.”
Responding to the launch of the consultation, the Local Government Association stressed it was important for the government to consider the underlying reasons behind councils' decisions to place children in unregistered homes.
A spokesperson said: “The increasing use of unregulated settings is being driven by shortfalls in places in registered children’s homes and other settings, particularly for young people with more complex needs.”