4 'Other arrangements': Suitability,
regulation and inspection |
39. 22% of looked after 16 and 17 year
old young people live in neither residential homes nor foster
care, but in what is termed 'other arrangements' (see para 6).
Evidence from the DfE addressed the inspection of 'other arrangements':
Unlike foster and residential care
these placements are not regulated under the Care Standards Act
2000 and as a result will not be inspected by Ofsted.
However statutory guidance says
that it is essential that the responsible authority takes every
step to establish that the child's needs are matched to the services
provided by the placement. Also in every case, before making the
placement the local authority must establish that the accommodation
is suitable. Our statutory guidance says suitable accommodation
suitable for the child in light
of his/her needs, including his/her health needs;
one in which the responsible authority
has satisfied itself as to the character and suitability of the
landlord or other provider; and
complies with health and safety
requirements related to rented accommodation.
Ofsted inspect local authorities'
performance on meeting their statutory duties in this area.
Although not cited by the DfE, Transition
guidance also states that suitable accommodation is accommodation:
In respect of which the responsible
authority has, so far as reasonably practicable, taken into account
wishes and feelings; and
education, training or employment
40. Schedule 2 of the Care Leavers (England)
Regulations 2010 outlines "matters to be considered before
placing [a young person] in accommodation in an unregulated setting
1. In respect of the accommodation,
(a) facilities and services provided,
(g) the financial commitments involved
for C [the young person] and their affordability.
2. In respect of [the young
person], [the young person's]
(a) views about the accommodation,
(b) understanding of their rights
and responsibilities in relation to the accommodation, and
(c) understanding of funding arrangements.
The Minister assured us that:
] there is already some level
of light-touch inspection, both by the local authority and how
they commission those services, and what they commission them
against [the statutory guidance and Schedule 2 outlined above].
Ofsted are then looking at how the local authority are fulfilling
41. Ofsted oversees 'other arrangements'
by means of the graded judgement within the single inspection
framework on the experiences and progress of care leavers, which
includes young people who are looked after and are preparing to
leave care. The Minister
told us that the single inspection framework, which "looks
unashamedly at the child's experience", is:
[...] a better regime for extracting
what is important for both the quality of service that young people
are receiving and their experiences [
Ofsted's single inspection framework
assesses the experiences and progress of care leavers through
scrutinising a "representative sample of at least 25 tracked
cases." Ofsted asserted:
The quality and suitability of accommodation
for care leavers contributes significantly to the judgement that
inspectors make on the experiences and outcomes of care leavers.
Case tracking may involve inspectors
visiting young people where they are living, when it is possible
and appropriate to do so.
42. Catch22 revealed:
Local authorities have adopted a
range of measures to seek to ensure that accommodation provided
to young people is safe and appropriate.
Such measures include "regions
and sub-regions [
] [joining] together to adopt quality frameworks
with standards and expectations",
as well as the adoption and development of existing "vetting
and approval processes".
Nevertheless, while YMCA England told us that some local authorities
do "provide a decent variety of accommodation which supports
the needs of this group",
Ofsted's inspection evidence found that there is "significant
variation in the quality and sufficiency of accommodation for
The Who Cares? Trust reported anecdotal evidence from young people
about living in:
] unsafe and unsuitable accommodation
] sharing accommodation with other young people who are
violent or addicted to drugs, of having their rooms broken into
and property stolen, of houses being dirty, ill-equipped, or having
problems with ants and mice [...] about staff leaving the accommodation
during their shifts and leaving young people in vulnerable situations
[and] anecdotal evidence of 16 and 17 year olds sharing accommodation
with adults who are over 18.
43. Just for Kids Law Youth Ambassadors
also reported that young people had described accommodation as:
"'terrible', 'unbearable', 'small and dirty' [
with] cockroaches, wood lice and bed bugs".
44. Not only is alternative accommodation
often unsuitable, but more worryingly, it is also often unsafe.
Our informal discussions with young people gave us an alarming
insight into the deficits in the suitability and safety of some
of the alternative accommodation in which 16 and 17 year olds
are placed. One young person told us of being placed in a hostel
in which there were no adults present and only one security camera
outside the building.
She was concerned that anything could be going on inside the hostel
and no one would know. Although her needs were not judged to be
that high, she felt that this overlooked the fact that she was
still only 16 years old. Another young person described her time
in a hostel as "the worst experience of my life", where
other residents were taking drugs and drinking alcohol. She told
us that she was "beaten up", simply for being new to
the hostel and the youngest resident. It was four days before
her social worker deemed the placement to be unsafe; in the meantime
she just "locked [herself] in [her] room". Such accounts
were corroborated by the Coram Group's experience:
] social work assessment
identifying suitable accommodation is often inadequate and hence
unsuitable accommodation is provided in which safety issues, such
as threats from gang members, domestic violence and other safeguarding
concerns are not properly considered.
The British Association of Social Workers
(BASW) argued that the absence of set standards and Ofsted inspections
presented the opportunity for:
] abuse and neglect given
that vulnerable young people in these settings can become isolated
and subject to exploitation.
45. Several submissions recommended
strengthening the regulation and inspection of 'other arrangements'.
For example, BASW was:
] firmly of the view that
the government needs to apply regulatory duties to all accommodation
providers who accommodate looked after children in order that
they are appropriately safeguarded and the provision meets acceptable
This view was shared by frontline professionals
and young people alike. A survey of frontline staff conducted
by Catch22 found that nearly 95% either 'strongly agreed', or
'agreed', that "Supported accommodation should be more closely
In addition, The Who Cares? Trust reported that "Young people
who live in alternative accommodation are concerned that there
is no regulatory body to inspect homes".
46. Professor Mike Stein identified
"The lack of regulation" as his main concern about the
quality and safety of the accommodation on offer.
He added that there should be "a thorough review of the way
] alternative accommodation is regulated".
Other witnesses agreed in oral evidence that there needed to be
stronger quality assurance mechanisms for 'other arrangements'.
47. Witnesses differed, however, over
whether suitability should be ensured through regulation (for
example by extending existing legislation) or through the creation
of quality standards, specific to the kinds of accommodation in
question. On the one hand Professor Mike Stein suggested, "The
legal framework, the Care Standards Act 2000, could be extended
to unregulated accommodation".
On the other hand, Catch22 cautioned against overly rigorous and
] any universal approach
to regulation and quality assurance would face considerable challenges,
the diversity of situations, models and approaches would make
the development of standards and expectations difficult.
Regulation may also stifle the creativity
in support arrangements needed to allow young people to practice
their independence skills. Residential or foster care standards
would not be appropriate in many cases. We would favour a less
mechanistic approach than current fostering and residential standards
48. Catch22's Director of Young People
and Families, Sally Morris, reiterated this point in oral evidence
and instead proposed a "national framework [
would not be too difficult to pull together". She said, it
would "need to be simple to cater for the range of accommodation
that falls into that alternative accommodation that is not currently
regulated", suggesting that:
It could bring together some of
the schedule  guidance in the regulations that is fragmented
and in different places at the moment [
] It does not need
to be too onerous [and would cover] all the basic standards that
you would expect to see [
49. Despite differences over the specific
formulation of a national framework, witnesses agreed that a practical
arrangement would be for local authorities to be held accountable
to a set of standards, however defined, through Ofsted's "regulation,
oversight and inspection of the conduct of the local authority
and its commissioning arrangements".
Ofsted itself was:
] not convinced [...] that
stronger regulation of a complex and varied sector would address
the uneven quality of care and support for young people.
[...] consideration may need to
be given to strengthening the guidance for commissioning unregulated
providers, such as through the use of quality standards. This
has the potential to raise standards and Ofsted would evaluate
this through the single inspection framework.
50. The Minister was similarly cautious
about over-regulating, arguing:
[...] whenever there is some poor
practice [...] there is always the option to look to regulation
to try to plug the gap [...] you have to be careful that you don't
Despite this position, the Minister
assured us of his commitment and determination to "do whatever
it takes" to see improvements in the way young people are
served by the care system:
I remain determined to continue
to push the boundaries where they need to go, whether that is
by delivering services differently, having a sharper focus on
certain areas of the system, or improving quality assurance or
accountability-whatever it takes. I want to do what I can to make
sure that children themselves get what they deserve.
arrangements' for looked after 16 and 17 year olds are too often
neither safe nor suitable, a situation exacerbated by the lack
of a regulatory regime for this kind of accommodation. The diversity
of the provision presents difficulties for the implementation
of stronger, universal regulation, but the challenges are not
so great as to justify the continuation of inadequate and ineffective
quality assurances for 'other arrangements'.
52. While we
welcome the emphasis that the single inspection framework places
on the experience of individual children, we are concerned that
a methodology based on tracking a sample of cases will fail to
ensure the suitability of all 'other arrangements'. This would
not be an acceptable approach for other settings, such as schools
or residential children's homes, and it should not be acceptable
for the accommodation in which some of society's most vulnerable
young people are housed.
53. Quality standards
will not suffice as a guarantee of safe and suitable accommodation.
By focusing on and overcoming the obstacles to more comprehensive
regulation, the Minister could demonstrate his commitment and
determination to "do whatever it takes [...] to make sure
that children themselves get what they deserve".
54. There are
measures to ensure the quality and safety of settings for children
and young people right across provisions: childminders, foster
carers, residential children's homes, secure training centres,
schools, sixth form colleges and further education colleges are
all inspected. Yet accommodation that falls within the category
of 'other arrangements' is not subject to individual regulatory
oversight. What makes this distinction all the more illogical
is that the 22% of looked after 16 and 17 year olds who live in
such accommodation are among the most vulnerable young people
in society. It is unacceptable for these young people, still legally
defined as 'children' and in the care of their local authority,
to be housed in unregulated settings.
55. We recommend that the DfE consult
on a framework of individual regulatory oversight for all accommodation
provision that falls within the category 'other arrangements'
to ensure suitability while allowing for continuing diversity
82 Department for Education (16P 29) para 28-30 Back
Department for Education, The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations Volume 3: Planning Transition to Adulthood for Care Leavers,
October 2010, para 7.13 Back
The Care Leavers (England) Regulations 2010 (SI 2010/2571), Schedule
2; see also Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England)
Regulations 2010 (SI 2010/959), Schedule 6 Back
Ofsted (16P 35) Back
Ofsted (16P 37) para 8 Back
Ofsted (16P 37) para 12 Back
Catch22 (16P 26) para 4.f Back
Catch22 (16P 26) para 4.g Back
Catch22 (16P 26) para 4.i Back
YMCA England (16P 20) para 2.1 Back
Ofsted (16P 35) para 10 Back
Findings are based on the 13 published inspection reports, as
at 14 May 2014, conducted under the single inspection framework
as well as five targeted inspections of services for looked after
children carried out in the summer of 2013 Back
The Who Cares? Trust (16P 12) para 4.2 Back
Just for Kids Law Youth Ambassadors (16P 15) p 1 Back
Throughout this report 'alternative accommodation' will be used
interchangeably with 'other arrangements'. Back
The hostel was on a site that had four hostels, two of which were
staffed and two were not. Residents were placed in a staffed or
unstaffed hostel based on an assessment of their needs. Back
The Coram Group (16P 24) para 14 Back
The British Association of Social Workers (16P 22) para 11 Back
The British Association of Social Workers (16P 22) para 11; see
also St Christopher's Fellowship (16P 3) p 3 and The Coram Group
(16P 24) para 9 Back
Catch22 (16P 26) para 4.k Back
The Who Cares? Trust (16P 12) para 2.2 Back
Catch22 (16P 26) para 4.m Back
Catch22 (16P 26) para 4.n Back
Q119 see also Q32 and Q33 Back
Ofsted (16P 35) para 12 Back
Ofsted (16P 35) para 15 Back