The Children’s Commissioner for England has called on councils to stop placing young people in care in unregulated accommodation.
It comes after a new report, entitled Unregulated: Children in care living in semi-independent accommodation, revealed that thousands of vulnerable people between the age of 16 and 18 are living in unregulated independent or semi-independent accommodation, such as bedsits, hostels and caravans.
According to the report, these settings are “not inspected” and often go without regular support from adults, significantly reducing positive outcomes for children in care.
In total, one in eight under-18s spent time in an unregulated placement between 2018 and 2019, with that number set to increase as demand for regulated accommodation outstrips supply.
The report also reveals that thousands of pounds are being spent by local authorities to house children every week, despite the accommodation being of poor and inadequate quality.
Commenting on the findings, Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield said: “These looked after children are entitled to ‘support’ but not ‘care’, and as a result are too often being left to fend for themselves, with minimal support, for all but a few hours a week.”
The paper suggests that the law should be changed so that all children in care who need a residential placement should be housed in regulated accommodation that is held to the same standards as children’s homes.
Ms Longfield said: “For too long children have been placed in this inappropriate accommodation as the sector has gone unchecked, with some providers making large profits from substandard and unsafe accommodation while offering little to no support.
“Ultimately it is the 1 in 8 children in care who spend time in unregulated accommodation who pay the price. These children are often left in extremely vulnerable situations, putting them at increased risk of exploitation by organised criminal gangs or abusers.”
To access the report, please click here.