Into independence, not out of care: 16 plus care options - Education Committee Contents

5  Use of bed and breakfast

56. Transition guidance confirms that "Bed and breakfast accommodation is not considered to be suitable".[117] Statutory guidance to the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000 qualifies this by saying "very occasionally its use may be justified as a short-term emergency measure",[118] and B&Bs therefore fall within the category of 'other arrangements'. The DfE does not collect data on the number of looked after 16 or 17 year olds placed in B&Bs, but 22% of looked after 16 and 17 year olds are living in 'other arrangements' (see para 6).

57. Evidence from The Who Cares? Trust referred to a Passport to Parliament event held in November 2012, at which 39% of young people said that they "knew a looked after child or care leaver living in a bed and breakfast".[119] Just for Kids Law also reported that they "still encounter many local authorities unlawfully placing 16-17 year olds in bed and breakfast accommodation […]".[120] Our informal discussions with young people have provided further accounts of the continued use of B&Bs for 16 and 17 year olds, sometimes for extended periods of time. One young person informed us that she had been living in a B&B for two years. Accounts of the use of B&Bs are supported by Ofsted's inspection reports published under the single inspection framework, which identified that "bed and breakfast accommodation is still being used in some local authorities".[121]

58. YMCA England argued that B&Bs leave young people "still vulnerable to exploitation from others who move into the accommodation", as a result of the difficulties in monitoring and supervising such accommodation.[122] Young people told Centrepoint of having had "negative experiences" in B&Bs,[123] and young people told us directly of their own experiences of feeling threatened and scared whilst living in a B&B. One young person told us of being placed in a B&B as an emergency placement for three weeks, yet it was primarily for adults and she was the only young person. She said that other older residents would come knocking on her door asking her to join them in their rooms, which was an incredibly frightening experience.

Banning the use of B&Bs

59. Witnesses from YMCA England and the ICHA supported an outright ban on the use of B&Bs, within a set time frame.[124] Catch22 and the Association of Directors of Children's Services (ADCS) were also supportive, but pointed to the possible negative implications of introducing such a proposal in the absence of other provision. Sally Morris, Director of Young People and Families at Catch22, and Andrew Christie, of the ADCS, explained:

    The reality is that there is a need for emergency, crash-pad accommodation for a very distressed young person who is in an urgent situation and needs accommodation [Sally Morris].[125]


    [In the absence of such provision] The alternative could be that [the local authority has] nothing to provide for that young person [Andrew Christie].[126]

60. As a means to mitigate the unforeseen consequences of banning B&Bs, witnesses recommended that local authorities should do more to provide and commission specifically designed facilities for emergency situations. Professor Mike Stein recommended:

    You need contingency carers [...] You would have to build up a respite-care system that was regulated and controlled, to avoid the use of the B&B market [...].[127]

61. The Minister agreed with these views. He told us:

    The temptation [to ban B&Bs] is there. We need to be a little careful [...] You cannot rule out the scenario, despite its unacceptability, in every situation, such as an emergency placement at 11 o'clock at night when there is literally nowhere else available.[128]

He added:

    The way to deal with that is to make sure that local authorities go back to the commissioning aspect of their role [...] It is also about how local authorities can better innovate and find alternative emergency accommodation that is always available.[129]

The Minister pointed to Wiltshire as an example of best practice. In this authority "the use of bed and breakfast accommodation is avoided", largely as a result of the "host families scheme", which provides "high quality emergency accommodation across the county while suitable longer-term options are explored".[130]

62. Local authorities have a statutory duty to secure a range of sufficient, suitable accommodation for looked after children.[131] Care Planning guidance states:

    The sufficiency duty requires local authorities to do more than simply ensure that accommodation be 'sufficient' in terms of the number of beds provided. They must have regard to the benefits of securing a range of accommodation through a number of providers. The accommodation must also meet the needs of the children which will be wide-ranging depending on age and the nature of any difficulties.[132]


    A key implication of the sufficiency duty is that local authorities should:


    facilitate access to limited, surplus provision or planned standby accommodation-to accommodate emergency placements; […] [133]

63. A consequence of failing to commission sufficient accommodation appears to be the overuse of B&Bs, with YMCA England attributing the use of B&Bs to "a lack of purpose designed accommodation for [older young people]".[134] We were advised that a closer regard for the sufficiency duty by local authorities could mitigate the possible negative consequences of banning B&Bs. During our inquiry into residential children's homes, and in relation to out-of-authority placements, we raised concerns about local authorities' disregard for the sufficiency duty and argued:

    One way of helping local authorities to meet the sufficiency duty is through the creation of commissioning consortia.[135]


    Providing they are structured in the right way, there is evidence that commissioning consortia can offer a valuable way of helping local authorities meet their sufficiency duties […].[136]

We welcome the Government's work through the Innovation Programme "to encourage proposals for different commissioning models and commissioning consortia to effectively meet the needs of young people in care", which it outlined in its response to our report.[137] This is applicable to, and could be significant for, achieving a reduction in the use of B&Bs for looked after young people.

64. St Basils and Homeless Link identified strengthened accountability as another means through which the use of B&Bs could be reduced:

    Housing Authorities have to report to [the Department for Communities and Local Government] on a quarterly basis the numbers of children aged 16 and 17 who are placed in B&B under Housing Act duties and any placements over 6 weeks. This has been instrumental in reducing the use of B&B for homeless young people […] We recommend […] that Children's Services should be required to record and monitor the number of 16 and 17 year olds and under 25s placed in B&Bs and report these figures to the DfE on a quarterly basis, to mirror the DCLG reporting cycle for Housing Authorities.[138]

65. Statutory guidance is clear that B&Bs are unsuitable for young people in care and should only be used in very particular, emergency situations. Nonetheless, we are deeply troubled by the continued use of B&Bs. Far from being merely unsuitable, B&Bs can present an environment which feels unsafe and threatening to a young person.

66. We recognise that a hastily introduced ban on B&Bs could lead to the unacceptable situation in which no placement can be offered to a young person who requires emergency accommodation. Nonetheless, an outright ban on B&Bs should be the long-term objective, to be achieved through stronger enforcement of the sufficiency duty, which explicitly requires the provision of surplus placements to meet emergency need. The creation of commissioning consortia should continue to be encouraged to assist with local authorities fulfilling this duty.

67. We recommend that the DfE consult urgently with local authorities on a reasonable timeframe in which to introduce a total ban on the use of B&Bs, alongside a strengthened requirement for local authorities to commission sufficient alternative emergency facilities. We also recommend that the DfE look further into models of emergency provision, such as that in Wiltshire, and consider contingency carers, as one way to mitigate the possible negative consequences of banning B&Bs. In the meantime, while setting up and running the consultation, the DfE should reiterate the message that B&Bs must only be used in extreme, emergency circumstances and for a very limited period of time, no more than a few days.

68. The DfE should require local authorities to report on their use of B&B accommodation for looked after young people, to include the length of stay, the age of the young person and the reason for being placed there.

117   Department for Education, The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations Volume 3: Planning Transition to Adulthood for Care Leavers, October 2010, para 7.12 Back

118   Department of Health, Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000 Regulations and Guidance, para 14 Back

119   The Who Cares? Trust (16P 12) para 3.6 Back

120   Just for Kids Law (16P 13) para 1.2 Back

121   Ofsted (16P 35) para 10 Back

122   YMCA England (16P 20) para 2.3 Back

123   Centrepoint (16P 7) para 16 Back

124   Q114 Back

125   Q97 Back

126   Q103 Back

127   Q46 Back

128   Q189 Back

129   Q189 Back

130   Department for Education (16P 38) p 3 Back

131   The Children Act 1989, Section 22G Back

132   Department for Education, Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review, March 2010, para 3.179 Back

133   Department for Education, Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review, March 2010, para 3.182 Back

134   YMCA England (16P 20) para 2.3; see also St Basils and Homeless Link (16P 19) para 7 Back

135   Sixth Report from the Education Committee, Residential Children's Homes, HC (2013-14) 716, para 83 Back

136   Sixth Report from the Education Committee, Residential Children's Homes, HC (2013-14) 716, para 90 Back

137   First Special Report from the Education Committee, Residential Children's Homes, HC (2014-15) 305, p 15 Back

138   St Basils and Homeless Link (16P 19) para 9 Back

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Prepared 17 July 2014