Related Sector: Health & Social Care

As many local authorities face bankruptcy there is an ongoing debate as to which particular groups are suffering the most as a result. Sadly, current surveys and  statistics confirm that it is our older children in care aged 16 and 17 who are suffering significant harm as a result.

In an earlier article:

Children in care: The crisis of unregistered placements

I made reference to Care Planning, Placement & Case Review (England) (Amendments) Regulations 2021 which made it illegal to place children under 16 in independent or semi-independent settings. I expressed concern that because it only applied to children under 16 it would leave 16 and 17 year olds in care, to fend entirely for themselves.

These vulnerable children are being placed in many different types of accommodation, all of which are unsuitable to meet their considerable complex needs.

Whilst referencing placement on canal boats, in caravans and air B&B’s in my previous article I am now referring to the unsuitability of placing these children in low budget hotels with no professional supervision or oversight. As a result of these inappropriate placements, children are suffering significant harm by exploitation, isolation, desperation and grooming by criminal gangs. I would entirely endorse Anne Longfield’s quote  ‘We are serving up these vulnerable kids on a conveyor belt to those that want to exploit them”.

Whilst it is acknowledged that there are more children coming into care and there is a national shortage of children’s homes, this crisis is not helped by the fact that most children’s homes are now owned by private equity companies, with costs amounting to  £10,000 a week, per child This crisis needs to be addressed.  A cap should be placed on the cost of care of unregulated children’s homes and provision has to be addressed by both regulation and legislation to provide these children with more suitable accommodation and care.

Many of these placements could be more harmful than allowing a child to remain at home and managing the risks with the family.

How do these current arrangements even begin to constitute adequate care and protection? In addition, how do they prepare these children with the appropriate support, to leave care and transition successfully to adulthood and independence? Sadly, they do not. These children should be renamed ‘children without care’ rather than ‘children in care’.

Historically, 16 and 17 year olds have always been the forgotten group - now they have become the forgotten and most vulnerable group.

Sadly the current buzz words in social care such as ‘outcome focussed’, ‘professional kindness’, ‘being accountable’, ‘offer protection’ are clearly not present for this group.

Whilst the government has made it lawful for local authorities to place 16 and 17 year olds in these hotels, immediate steps could and should be taken by central government, local government and Ofsted to hold local authorities to account for the lack of the quality of care and accommodation they are providing to 16 and 17 years old.

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