Into independence, not out of care: 16 plus care options
Publication of the Committee’s Second Report of Session 2014–14.
Ban the use of B&Bs for looked after young people and regulate all ‘other arrangements’, say MPs.
Young adults should not be forced to leave care before they turn 21, should only be provided with regulated accommodation and should not be placed in a bed and breakfast, argues the Education Committee in a report about 16 plus care options.
Launching the report, the Chair of the Education Committee, Mr Graham Stuart, said today:
“Looked after young people moving towards adulthood deserve a well-supported transition to independence rather than an abrupt push out of care.
“We launched this inquiry because we were concerned about the level of care and quality of support provided for older adolescents. We have now been persuaded of just how serious the problems are in this area and our report sets out the steps that must be taken to improve 16 plus care options”.
“For too many looked after young people, their ambition to move to semi-independent or independent living at the age of 16 or 17 results in them being placed in accommodation 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’.
“The DfE asserts that B&Bs are not considered to be suitable. Far from being merely unsuitable, this kind of housing is frequently both threatening and frightening to a young person. Their continued use shows that the current guidance is clearly inadequate.
“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 is plain: B&Bs are not suitable and should only be used in extreme, emergency situations and even then, never for 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 residential children’s homes are often the most vulnerable and in need of extended support. We recommend that Staying Put be extended to residential children’s homes so that all looked after young people can benefit from the much needed stability this policy brings”.
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 that they are 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.
· Changes to guidance on ‘pathway planning’ 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 postponed until after the end of an academic year following their 18th 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.
Committee Membership is as follows:
Mr Graham Stuart (Chair), Conservative, Beverley and Holderness
Neil Carmichael, Conservative, Stroud
Alex Cunningham, Labour, Stockton North
Bill Esterson, Labour, Sefton Central
Pat Glass, Labour, North West Durham
Siobhain McDonagh, Labour, Mitcham and Morden
Ian Mearns, Labour, Gateshead
Caroline Nokes, Romsey and Southampton North
Mr Dominic Raab, Esher and Walton
Mr David Ward, Liberal Democrat, Bradford East
Craig Whittaker, Conservative, Calder Valley
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