Crackdown on unregulated children's homes to reduce 'county lines' risk

Children in the care system will no longer be placed in unregulated accommodation, under plans outlined today.

Ministers have launched a crackdown following revelations youngsters were being housed in places not subjected to inspections.

The practice is already against the law if the child is under the age of 16.

But a probe found teenagers were temporarily being placed in such properties, despite experts saying they were at risk of child sexual exploitation or from “county lines” criminal exploitation.

Under today’s plans, all cared-for children under the age of 16 must be placed in Ofsted-regulated homes.

More than 6,000 looked-after children and young people in England live in unregulated accommodation, with up to 100 under-16s living in unregulated provision at any one time.

In November, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson wrote to all council leaders in England saying the use of unregulated placements for children in care should be “eliminated”.

Unveiling an eight-week consultation Mr Williamson said last night: “There are no circumstances where a child under 16 should be placed in accommodation that does not keep them safe.

“That is unacceptable and I am taking urgent action to end this practice and drive up the quality of care provided to all vulnerable children.

“Social workers and council chiefs have to make difficult decisions about the children in their care, so it’s important that we agree an ambitious approach to these important reforms to bring about lasting change in children’s social care.”

Welcoming the announcement, Ofsted’s national director for social care Yvette Stanley said: “Some of our most vulnerable children are living in places where we don’t know if the people caring for them are suitable or skilled enough to meet their needs – this isn’t acceptable.

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“We’ve also called for better assurance about the quality of unregulated provision for older children.

“We need a system where children are getting high quality care and support, with the right level of oversight.”

Children’s Society chief executive Mark Russell added: “We are pleased the Government is looking carefully at this issue and recognising the wider issues at play, such as the shortage of places where they’re most needed.”


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