The Department for Education has published its response to a consultation about supported accommodation for 16 and 17-year-olds in care and leaving care. The consultation asked children, young people, and staff working in the sector about quality standards and the proposed approach to regulation.
DfE are confident that children in or leaving care aged 16 and 17 will be better protected through the new regulations that ban unregulated accommodation.
The new regulations include the introduction of new mandatory quality standards in supported accommodation and a robust Ofsted inspection regime, with all providers needing to be registered.
The measures mean that from October 2023, all providers of accommodation for children in care or care leavers up to the age of 18 will be regulated by Ofsted, which DfE says will put an end to children living in poor quality homes with no meaningful oversight. Providers can start registering from April 2023, with mandatory registration beginning in October.
The consultation response, published by DfE, sets out key features of an Ofsted regulatory regime, including enforcement powers and offence provisions, such as right of entry powers and the prosecution of providers who do not register.
The response also outlines the standards that providers will have to follow, covering physical surroundings of homes, as well as how children are kept safe and the mental and emotional support they should be given.
DfE has announced that the measures are backed by £142m in funding over three years, including £17.2m to Ofsted and £123m towards local authorities.
The consultation response follows the publication of the Government’s children’s social care strategy, and delivers on recommendations made in the Independent Review into Children’s Social Care. The introduction of these regulations is a key part of delivering the commitments set out in the strategy – that all children live in safe and stable homes.
Alongside the response to this consultation, DfE has published:
• Statutory guidance on the supported accommodation regulations including quality standards;
• An analytical report of responses received to the consultation;
• A response aimed directly at children and young people; and,
• An ad-hoc stats release on the use of supported accommodation (including a breakdown on placements by LA).
Every child deserves a safe and stable home with a support network that looks out for them. Supported accommodation at its best does that, while also helping young people in care develop the confidence they need to lead a fulfilling life after care. But we know that for too many, standards have fallen short.
I am determined that this kind of accommodation comes up to the same high standard across the country, which will help give children a better chance of success in the future.
“The new regulations are a vital step in achieving our ambition to transform children’s social care with radically improved standards and outcomes, as set out recently in our plan for children’s social care, Stable Homes, Built on Love.
Claire Coutinho MP
Minister for Children, Families and Wellbeing
DfE will proceed with laying the regulations before parliament in early April, which will bring the new national standards and Ofsted regime into law.
Ofsted will begin registering providers from 28 April 2023. Registration will become mandatory from 28 October 2023, meaning that any supported accommodation provider accommodating a looked after child or care leaver aged 16 or 17 must be registered with Ofsted or they will be committing an offence. There is a transitional period whereby providers who submit a full application to Ofsted before 28 October 2023 can continue to operate until that application has been determined.
Under the new regulations, providers will also be required to complete a review of the support they are offering young people every six months. This review will have to include the views and experiences of the children and young people living in the accommodation and will be used to make sure the accommodation meets the needs of everyone who lives there. Reviews will be submitted to Ofsted, which will inspect accommodation at least every three years.
To support providers to meet the new requirements, the Department for Education has awarded the National Children’s Bureau a £750k contract up to April 2024 to provide practical support, information, and good practice resources targeted directly at providers and local authority commissioners.
With the Government introducing new regulations and standards designed to improve the quality of supported accommodation for 16 and 17-year-olds in care and leaving care, it is important that those providing this accommodation are effectively prepared to register under the new regime and to implement the new ways of working.
The National Children’s Bureau is undertaking a range of activity on behalf of DfE to prepare the supported accommodation sector for this journey, and we will be working with young people in care and care leavers to ensure their voices and experiences are embedded at both programme and local levels.”
CEO of NCB