COMMONS

Ban use of B&Bs and regulate all 'other arrangements'

17 July 2014

The Education Committee publishes its report on 16 plus care options.

Chair's comments

Launching its report, which examines 16 plus care options, the Chair of the Education Committee, Mr Graham Stuart, said:

"Looked after young people’s move to adulthood needs to be a supported transition into independence rather than an abrupt step out of care.

We launched this inquiry because of initial concerns about the level and quality of support and care provided for older adolescents. Having looked at the issues in depth, we realise how serious, and in need of attention, the situation is. Our report sets out the concrete steps that need to be taken to improve 16 plus care options.

For too many looked after young people, their ambitious move to semi-independent or independent living at the age of 16 or 17 results in them being placed in a home that is neither safe nor suitable. The lack of regulation and inspection for the range of accommodation used is shocking. We urge the DfE to consult on the introduction of a regulatory framework for all accommodation that falls within the catch-all term ‘other arrangements'."

On the use of B&Bs Mr Stuart said:

"Despite the DfE’s assertion that B&Bs are not considered to be suitable, they continue to be used. The current guidance against the use of this type of accommodation, which far from being merely unsuitable can feel threatening and frightening to a young person, is clearly not enough. The DfE should consult urgently with local authorities to determine a reasonable timeframe for the outright ban on the use of B&Bs for looked after young people. In the meantime, the message must be reiterated: B&Bs are not suitable, should only be used in extreme, emergency situations and even then, for no more than a few days.

While we strongly endorse the current Staying Put policy, it applies only to looked after young people living in foster care. Yet those in a residential children’s home are often the most vulnerable and in need of extended support. We recommend that Staying Put be extended to residential children’s home so that all young people can benefit from the much needed stability this policy brings."

Conclusions

The report also calls for:

  • The DfE to ensure that looked after young people approaching independence are fully and effectively informed of their rights and entitlements and given a genuine choice of accommodation.
  • Clearer and stronger guidance to the effect that local authorities consider, as a first option, carers and professionals with whom a young person has an established relationships as a Personal Adviser.
  • An alteration to pathway planning guidance so as specifically to include relationships with siblings.
  • Local authorities to report to the DfE on their use of B&B accommodation for looked after young people.
  • Leaving care services to be extended to the age of 25, without exception.
  • The DfE to remind all local authorities of their statutory duty to postpone any unnecessary and disruptive placement change during Key Stage 4.
  • A duty upon local authorities to ensure that a young person’s transition out of care is also postponed until after the end of an academic year following a given birthday.
  • The DfE to issue explicit guidance on young people’s right to stay in ‘other arrangements’ until they are 21.
  • The DfE to examine models of Staying Close and, if they are shown to improve young people’s outcomes, issue best practice guidance on such models for situations in which a young person’s preference is to Stay Close rather than Stay Put.

Further information

Image: iStockphoto

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