Caroline Coady, Assistant Director for Social Care, sets out NCB's plan for the Sector Awareness and Provider Preparedness programme.
NCB’s vision sets out our ambition that every child and young person is safe, secure and supported.
We are passionate about working across agencies and systems to improve outcomes for children and young people but, we also acknowledge that their lives are not lived in siloes, compartmentalised into the range of agencies and support mechanisms set up to both identify and meet their needs for care and support.
A stable and supportive home where young people’s needs are met is the foundation for a secure future which will enable young people to thrive, but in the current system, too many of the young people in and leaving care are living in unregulated and unsuitable environments where they are unsupported and often unsafe. Since September 2021, as set out in the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2021, local authorities have been banned from placing children and young people under the age of 16 in unregulated supported accommodation.
This was an important step in terms of driving up standards for care and protection for looked after children. However, for 16 and 17-year-olds in care or leaving care, the ban for under 16s left a continued gap in the protections for this group, including a lack of consistent expectations and quality assurance of the accommodation in which they are often expected to live.
As the newly appointed provider of the Sector Awareness and Provider Preparedness programme, NCB will work with care experienced young people and cross-sector partners to explore the potential opportunity to raise the bar in relation to supported accommodation for this group of vulnerable young people through the incoming quality standards, registration and regulation regime that has recently been consulted on.
The Independent review of children’s social care stated that “Government should proceed with the speedy introduction of regulation for independent and semi-independent accommodation as a short term step” and, whilst we acknowledge the significant concerns in parts of the children’s sector that this programme of regulation does not go far enough, we are committed to ensuring that it goes as far as possible. This includes a focus on ensuring providers and local authority commissioners have the tools and support they need to enable the necessary market development required to effectively meet young people’s needs.
We see the programme as a crucial opportunity to build the necessary partnerships, understanding and commitment to improve outcomes for this group of young people so that supported accommodation providers can effectively deliver their role in enabling young people to fulfil their potential.
We have learned from our experience of delivering change across children and young people’s services that for transformation to be successful it requires ongoing co-production and partnerships with all those likely to be affected by the change. For this programme it will mean a commitment at both programme and local area level to embedding the lived experience of young people. Our approach and commitment to this programme seek to balance our mission to ensure the best outcomes for young people with the need to understand and mitigate for the potential unintended consequences of significant change across the system.
We believe that this programme creates an opportunity to take urgent steps towards improving supported accommodation and to embrace the potential for incremental change towards an improved system of support. Ultimately, leading to young people being safer, more secure and having their needs met through high-quality, tailored support.
If you are a local authority commissioner or a provider seeking to find out more about the support and resources available through the programme we have new online communities of practice that you can sign-up to by emailing us using the links below:
To find out more about the programme and the opportunities to be involved in the next stages of development and delivery you can read our news story here.