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Ofsted to begin registering independent and semi-independent providers from April 2023

The proposed national standards for independent and semi-independent homes for looked-after children and care leavers aged 16 and 17 will follow in Autumn 2023.

16/12/21

Ofsted to begin registering independent and semi-independent providers from April 2023

The Education Secretary has announced that the children’s social care inspectorate Ofsted will begin registering providers of independent and semi-independent children’s homes from April 2023.

The new national standards will become mandatory for all providers from Autumn 2023, with the first full inspections by Ofsted taking place from April 2024.

Writing in his foreword to the report, Nadhim Zahawi said the reforms represent the “beginning of a new chapter” for semi-independent homes and that the standards would “raise the bar” for young people placed in them.

“I know that the implementation of these reforms will not be without its challenges,” Zahawi said.

“However, it is clear to me from the consultation that the sector is eager and willing to
work with us to implement a system that works for everyone, and truly delivers for young
people.

“I am committed to working collaboratively with the sector to ensure that we seize
this exciting opportunity to implement a system which not only guarantees high-quality
accommodation for young people, but which also ensures that providers are able to tailor
and adapt the support provided to each young person.”

The Government announced in February this year that it planned to ban the placing of children under the age of 16 in unregulated accommodation, with the ban coming into force from September. However, children aged 16 and 17 were still permitted to be placed in such settings.

Gavin Williamson, Education Secretary at the time, said that regulation of independent and semi-independent providers would also be strengthened, including the proposal of a set of national standards and inspections.

Government data shows that there were roughly 100 children aged 15 and younger in this type of accommodation before the ban, compared to around 6,000 children aged 16 and 17 – with a third of all 16- and 17-year-olds in care currently living in unregulated accommodation.

The Government claims that independent and semi-independent provision can be the right option for some older children, and says it is intended to facilitate supported living for older children developing their independence before they leave the care system.

However, campaigners still oppose the use of such accommodation for children aged 16 and 17, claiming that it denies them the care they are entitled to.

Speaking in the House of Commons this Summer, Emma Lewell-Buck MP said: “The line that [the Government] are ensuring children 15 years of age and below must live in a setting where they receive care is wrong,” Lewell-Buck said. “What this statutory instrument is really doing is legislating to deny children aged 16 and 17 years of age – that’s children in the care of the state – any care at all.”

Lewell-Buck, who was a social worker before becoming MP for South Shields in 2013, said the practice of placing children in unregulated accommodation leaves them without any support and vulnerable to criminal abusers, drugs gangs and sexual exploitation and creates a ‘two-tier’, discriminatory system.

“Children in foster care can remain until they are 21 years old, yet those without a foster family are being told that their leaving care age won’t be 18 as it always has been, but it will now be 16.”

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