Ensuring that young people in care and care leavers are able to live in good quality homes that meet their needs is a key priority for councils. However, a range of challenges mean that meeting this priority can be exceptionally difficult, and we are keen to work with the Government and partners to tackle this to make sure children and young people are safe and well supported.
The need for children’s home accommodation currently outstrips supply, and this is undoubtedly driving the increasing use of unregulated and unregistered accommodation. Councils in particular report difficulties finding placements for young people with particularly complex needs or challenging behaviours. We would encourage the Government to consider the reasons for the increasing need for children’s home placements, alongside work to identify the kinds of placements that are needed and how to develop these. Without increasing the availability of suitable accommodation, or reducing the need for it, we will not reduce the use of unregulated and unregistered placements.
Furthermore, councils have faced significant funding cuts at a time of increasing demand for children’s services. The overall funding available to children’s services departments must be considered as part of any effort to improve accommodation for children and young people, recognising that appropriate support for children cannot be provided without sufficient staff and investment.
The current COVID-19 outbreak highlights the need to consider carefully how any new legislation or regulations would retain flexibility to ensure councils and providers can safely respond to crises while keeping children’s best interests at the heart of all decision-making. For example, where there may be significant pressures on staffing or individual homes, the sector must be able to put in place swift solutions to ensure children remain safe and well-cared for, with as little disruption as possible.