Reforms to unregulated provision for children in care and care leavers

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Closes 8 Apr 2020


The Department is seeking views on proposed new measures to ensure that the use of independent and semi-independent provision (commonly known as unregulated provision) provides the right level of support and does not place children in care and care leavers at risk.

Children in care and care leavers are some of the most vulnerable children and young people in society. Every child and young person should have access to a stable and secure placement in accommodation that can meet their needs and, most importantly, keep them safe. We need to work together to make this happen and deliver the support these vulnerable children and young people deserve.

The government is committed to ensuring that all care placements provide children and young people with the support they need. That is why we will review the care system.

Most children in the care system are placed in foster care or children’s homes, which are regulated by Ofsted. A growing number of children, particularly older children and Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children, are being placed in independent and semi-independent settings, which are not registered or inspected by Ofsted.

These placements form a vital part of the care system in meeting the needs of older children who are ready to live with an increased level of independence. However, we are concerned that independent and semi-independent settings are not always good enough, and that some children are being placed at risk and/or in settings that cannot meet their needs. We are particularly concerned that increasing numbers of children under the age of 16 are being placed in situations where either the provider is only offering support and not care, or care is being provided but the provider is operating illegally (an unregistered setting). It is unacceptable for any child or young person to be placed in a setting that does not meet their needs and keep them safe, for any amount of time.

Whilst there is a place for independent and semi-independent provision in the care system, to support young people to transition to living independently, it is clear that reform is needed to ensure it is being used appropriately and meets the needs of the young people placed there. The Department proposes new measures to do that and, through this consultation, is inviting views on proposed new measures and their potential impact. The proposed measures include:

  • new measures to ensure that the use of independent and semi-independent placements for children and young people is appropriate, including ending the use of this provision for children under the age of 16; and
  • introducing new checks and balances into the system to drive up the quality of provision, including national standards.

We want to bring about lasting change to ensure that children and young people get the support and care that they need. Working with the sector, this consultation is the start towards achieving that. We may begin implementing policy changes resulting from this consultation before the wider review of the care system has concluded. If this happens we would ensure that the findings inform the review.   

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