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Children in Care

Question for Department for Education

UIN 15072, tabled on 12 February 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps his Department is taking to support looked after children who are placed out of borough in homes not registered with Ofsted.

Answered on

24 February 2020

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. On 5 November 2019, my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Education, wrote to all local authorities reminding them of their duty to keep children safe, particularly if they are placed away from their area, which requires approval by a Director of Children’s Services.

Reform is needed as a matter of urgency to ensure this provision is being used appropriately and meets the needs of the young people placed there. On 12 February 2020 we announced proposals to drive up the quality of children’s social care. The consultation invites views on a set of new measures to ensure appropriate use of these placements. The proposals include:

  • banning the use of independent and semi-independent placements for children and young people under the age of 16
  • driving up the quality of support offered in independent and semi-independent provision through the introduction of new national standards, ensuring that these standards are enforced and that young people’s interests are appropriately represented by their Independent Reviewing Officer
  • introducing new measures so that local authorities and local police forces liaise before a placement in such provision is made
  • giving Ofsted new legal powers to act against illegal providers. Under the proposal, legislation would be amended so that Ofsted could take legal action before prosecution and issue enforcement notices, which will result in illegal providers either being forced to close, register or face a penalty.

The consultation is open for response until 8 April and is available at the following link: https://consult.education.gov.uk/unregulated-provision/unregulated-provision-children-in-care/.

Ofsted has conducted over 150 investigations in the last year into settings suspected to be operating as an unregistered children’s home. They are expediting applications to make sure new homes can be inspected and have implemented a new process for informing local authorities when cease and desist letters are sent to unregistered providers so that they know not to place children with them.