The issue of regulated and unregulated provision for children and young adults has featured widely in the news. Nadhim Zahawi has stated an intention to eliminate a “rogue element”. Unregulated homes are not children’s homes but are often described and perceived as such. For example, many police constabularies report data on children missing from unregulated provisions, which are then conflated and misrepresent the sector as a whole. Members of the public seeing a group of young people living in a house where staff are employed would reasonably assume that it is a children’s home. There may be excellent unregistered provision alongside dangerous under-staffed with unqualified personnel – we simply do not know. By definition, there is no objective inspection or monitoring of these establishments.
What we know is that we risk returning to, or could already be in a situation, often characterised by systemic or institutional abuse of children that existed prior to the requirement for all children’s homes to be registered and inspected. There is widespread acceptance, excepting ADCS, that registration and inspection of provision caring for children should be mandatory.
Placements are made in unregulated provision by Local Authorities and only they could identify the extent of the growth of this sector. Operating unregulated children’s homes is illegal and OfSTED will prosecute proprietors and close down such provisions. There will be no sanction against the Local Authority making the placements.
It is accepted that LA’s have a problem as more children enter the care system and require placements, at a time when their budgets are under enormous pressure. The answer is not to place children at potential risk. As Mr Zahawi continues to demonstrate his determination to eliminate (this) “rogue element.” We trust he will work with the whole sector and persuade the government to fund and help expand the number of safe, secure, registered and regulated children’s homes, together with ensuring the continued implementation of a robust regulatory framework.