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Children in care homes: Education Committee to launch new inquiry

18 February 2021

The Education Committee is to carry out an inquiry into children’s homes, as part of its continuing work examining the issues faced by left behind groups.

Just 7% of looked-after children achieve a good pass in GCSE English and Maths compared with 40% of non-looked after children, while in the longer-term, around a quarter of both homeless people and those in prison are care-leavers.

Looked-after children are four times more likely to have a special educational need (SEN) than other children. Children aged 16-17 living in children’s homes are 15 times more likely to be criminalised than their peers of the same age.

The Committee’s inquiry is likely to examine areas including:

  • The data on academic outcomes and progression to destinations such as employment, apprenticeships and higher education for children and young people living in children’s homes.
  • What can be done to improve educational and longer-term outcomes for children and young people living in children’s homes.
  • The disproportionately high rates of criminalisation of young people in children’s homes.
  • What further support is needed to improve outcomes for children with special educational needs in children’s homes.
  • The quality of care, support and safeguarding in children’s homes.
  • The impact of the covid-19 pandemic on the children’s residential care sector, and on the demand for children’s home places.

The full terms of reference for the inquiry will be published shortly along with a call for written evidence. The Committee will be welcoming written evidence from everyone with experience of working in children’s homes, academic and policy experts, and young people who live or who have lived in a children’s home.

Chair's comment

Rt Hon Robert Halfon MP, Chair of the Education Committee, said:

“With many children in care struggling to achieve good basic qualifications and leavers more likely to end up in prison or on the streets, those in the care system are falling behind every step of the way. As part of the Committee’s unerring focus on supporting disadvantaged groups, this inquiry will get to the bottom of why children and young people living in children’s homes are facing such an uphill struggle to get on in life.

There is also worrying evidence of the consequences of a lack of oversight in some homes. The most basic of rights for a child must be to have somewhere safe to live, where they are not at risk of abuse or preyed on by gangs. We will be examining whether more needs to be done to protect young people in unregulated provision.

Children coming into care will already have had a traumatic start to their lives. We therefore owe it to them to ensure that their homes are safe and secure and that they are given every helping hand to access the ladder of opportunity and succeed in education and beyond.”

The inquiry is the latest in the Committee’s strand of work on left behind groups. Inquiries are continuing on left behind white pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds, home education and prison education. In December, the Committee published its report on adult skills and lifelong learning.

Background and statistics

Ofsted’s figures show that the number of children’s homes continues to increase. There were 2,460 children’s homes in England as at 31 March 2020. This was a net increase of 7% from the same time last year, and follows the patterns of previous years. 

Only 32% of local authorities report that they have access to enough residential homes for children aged 14 to 15 years, and 41% for those aged 16 to 17.

As at March 2020, 80% of children’s homes were rated good or outstanding by Ofsted, but 18% were judged requires improvement, and 2% were judged to be inadequate.

Further information

Image: Geograph