Our response to this consultation has been informed by the views, insights and experiences of children and young people with lived experience of independent or semi-independent accommodation, which have been shared with Become through a number of participation activities and workshops that we have carried out or supported between 2021 and 2023.
This response builds on previous responses that we have submitted to consultations held by the Department for Education, in 2021 and 2023, into the proposed regulation of supported accommodation for 16 and 17 year olds.
We reject the Government’s proposals to introduce regulations for supported accommodation settings for 16 and 17 year olds that do not provide care in the strongest of terms. Establishing a separate set of standards and guidance for semi-independent settings will establish a two-tier care system for children aged 16 and 17. The Government’s plan to introduce this new regulatory regime is not in care-experienced children’s best interests, nor does it reflect what they tell us about the care and support they want to receive at this age.
We are concerned that the Government’s proposed regulatory regime will legitimise and formalise the use of semi-independent accommodation for 16- and 17-year olds; and that the number and proportion of 16-and 17- year olds in care who are living in supported accommodation will continue to grow. In turn, this risks bringing the care cliff experienced by many young people leaving care forward from age 18 to age 16.
We remain unconvinced that some of the proposed types of supported accommodation settings are at al appropriate in keeping children safe, and ensuring that their needs are identified and met. Moreover, semi-independent settings are not conducive to providing the stability, permanence, and supportive, loving and sustainable relationships that care-experienced children and young people need to recover, grow and thrive.
We maintain that the inclusion of semi-independent settings within the existing children’s homes quality standards, with modifications where required, is the best way forward. This aligns with what children and young people tell us about how they want the level of care and support they receive at age 16 and 17 to be maintained whilst respecting their growing independence and autonomy.
Consequently, we think that the Ofsted inspection framework for supported accommodation should mirror, as much as possible, the common core inspection framework for children’s homes, to ensure that there is parity between the way that the quality of accommodation and support provided to children living in supported accommodation is inspected, compared to their peers in other residential care settings. This means that inspection visits for supported accommodation, like for children’s homes, should be unannounced and that all providers of supported accommodation should be inspected at least annually.