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Ofsted issues fresh warning against use of unregistered children’s homes

New guidance by Ofsted has warned against the placement of vulnerable children, including those subject to deprivation of liberty orders, in unregistered children’s homes.

16/08/23

Ofsted issues fresh warning against use of unregistered children’s homes

Ofsted has published new guidance warning against placing children subject to deprivation of liberty (DoL) orders in unregistered settings.

Children subject to deprivation of liberty orders have complex needs and require high levels of skilled care and supervision. Ofsted says that too often, these children are placed in illegal unregistered settings without external oversight.

The new guidance, published today, makes clear that settings offering children’s home services for children subject to DoL orders should register with Ofsted in England or the Care Inspectorate Wales. The court order does not exempt the provider from being registered. Operating a children’s home without registration remains illegal.

Earlier this year, researchers from The Nuffield Family Justice Observatory (Nuffield FJO) said action was ‘desperately needed’ to develop local placements with care after a study found many children with DoL orders were facing long and severe restrictions in unregistered placements far from home.

In over half of the cases analysed in that study, children were placed in at least one unregistered setting, ranging from semi-independent accommodation, Care Quality Commission-registered accommodation, hospital wards, and temporary rented accommodation, including hotels or caravans. When children were placed in unregistered placements, researchers said there were ‘considerable delays’ in providers applying for, or being granted, registration.

Yvette Stanley, Ofsted’s Director for Social Care said it was “unacceptable” that children with DoL orders were being placed in these settings.

“Some of the most vulnerable children with very complex needs are living in places with the least oversight; where we do not know if they are safe, or if the people caring for them are suitable or skilled enough to meet their needs.

“We know that many children deprived of their liberty are placed in illegal unregistered settings. It is important that providers register and local authorities play their part to ensure vulnerable children are only placed in registered settings.”

Ofsted has also updated its guidance on how it prioritises applications to register children’s homes when local authorities need urgent placements for children. This means that providers accommodating children who have been placed by a local authority in an ‘emergency’, children who are subject to a DoL order and/or unaccompanied asylum seeking children, can have their application expedited. However, registration requirements and regulations must be met before a provider is deemed suitable.

Read the government’s ‘Placing children: deprivation of liberty orders’ guidance: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/placing-children-deprivation-of-liberty-orders

Read the government’s ‘Registering children’s homes in an emergency: priority applications’ guidance: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/registering-childrens-homes-in-an-emergency-as-a-direct-result-of-covid-19-pandemic-fast-track-applications

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