Written evidence submitted by #KeepCaringTo18 campaign steering group

Education Committee Children’s Homes Inquiry
The use and appropriateness of unregulated provision
Submission from the #KeepCaringTo18 campaign steering group
23 April 2021


1.       The #KeepCaringTo18 campaign, launched in early 2020, aims to ensure that all looked after children receive care until at least the age of 18.[1] This submission is informed by an analysis of the 400+ responses to the Department for Education’s (DfE) recent consultation on unregulated provision for children in care and care leavers.[2]


2.       Caring for children is at the heart of fostering, and it is the first quality standard for children’s homes.[3] Although they provide accommodation which is secured and funded by local authorities as part of their general duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children they are looking after[4], unregulated providers bypass the children’s homes quality standards by not providing care to looked after children. The government is not proposing to change this. The vast majority of looked after children living in unregulated provision will continue to be denied care.


3.       The DfE has decided to prohibit the use of unregulated accommodation for looked after children aged 15 and younger, but not for children aged 16 and 17.[5] On 31 March 2020, there were 3,870 looked after children in England living in semi-independent accommodation and a further 2,610 living independently (6,480 children in total – 8% of all looked after children).[6] Around 100 of these children were aged 15 or younger.[7]

Not enough homes for children in care 


4.       The vast majority of media investigations and serious concerns expressed about looked after children in unregulated accommodation relate to those aged 16 and 17.


5.       Our analysis of the 400+ responses to the DfE’s consultation (237 responding to the full consultation document; 165+ providing the views and experiences of young people) shows an overwhelming concern at the lack of homes for children who are looked after, especially teenagers. Of the 237 responses to the full consultation document, 137 (58%) proactively raised concerns about (in)sufficiency / the care system not being able to provide children with suitable homes. The severe resource constraints of local authorities was also highlighted by the House of Lords Secondary Legislation Committee in its review of the proposed regulatory changes for children aged 15 and younger.[8]


6.       In their response to the DfE’s consultation on unregulated provision, Judges of the Family Division of the High Court explained:

… on a given day there will be a significant number of cases before the courts in which unregulated provision for children and care leavers is an issue, many of them being dealt with, often without notice at urgent hearings, by deputy High Court judges up and down the country. For example, the FDLJ [Family Division Liaison Judges] for London is currently required to authorise deputy High Court Judges to deal with cases in which unregulated provision for children and care leavers is an issue at least once, and sometimes up to three times, each day.[9]


7.       A social worker told the British Association of Social Workers:


Due to the shortage of placements in the local authority where I last worked, supported accommodation was used as the default option for any young person over the age of 16 in need of a placement, irrespective of their level of maturity or vulnerability. This included young people with learning needs, mental health issues and those known to be being exploited. Some of the larger providers also became a target for criminals in the area as they knew that this was a place where vulnerable young people lived without significant supervision. Young people not in the care system often do not move into their own accommodation until they are in their 20s. It concerns me that our most vulnerable young people are often expected to do this at a younger age.[10] [Emphasis added].


8.       The Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) told the DfE, “There is a lack of capacity in specialist and secure children’s homes that can offer intensive care and support for some of the most vulnerable children who may be a risk to themselves or to others”[11] and stated:


ADCS is aware of examples where placement officers have contacted in excess of 200 registered providers and have still been unable to secure a placement for a single child. Demand for registered places is outstripping supply and registered children’s homes are increasingly reluctant to accept children with highly complex needs, particularly at short notice or in a crisis situation, for fear of jeopardising their Ofsted rating.[12]


9.       The Children’s Society, which has been working for several years in this area, told the DfE:


Our research and feedback from direct work with vulnerable adolescents consistently highlighted concerns with the high level of needs children have … and the quality and insufficiency of support provided to many children placed in unregulated accommodation, concerns with the lack of safeguarding response children receive when they are placed in unregulated accommodation and the increasing number of placements in unregulated accommodation that are outside the child’s home area.[13]

10.   A manager of semi-independent accommodation included this in their response to the DfE consultation:


In my experience of managing a semi-independent unit in [place], we had a number of children placed with us who were 15 and in [year] 11 at school. These children needed 'care' and should not have been placed with us, but the county council were looking to save money (we were considerably cheaper than a care placement). One child placed with us was 15 but had learning difficulties and was operating at a social and emotional age of around 10 years old. [Emphasis added].


11.   We draw the Committee’s attention to the local authority duty to secure sufficient accommodation which meets the needs of looked after children and is in their area,[14] and the Secretary of State’s duty to promote the well-being of children in England.[15]

12.   A quarter (24%) of children in care are aged 16 and 17. Discussion within the Task and Finish Group on unregulated provision established by the DfE included a consideration of the effects of the significant reduction in the number of teenagers in prison, as well as other factors such as the impact of the Southwark judgment and the rising number of unaccompanied children entering the care system.[16]

13.   We deeply regret that the care system has not been able to respond to the welfare needs of teenagers who would have formerly been incarcerated and draw the Committee’s attention to Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons’ inspection framework for young offender institutions and secure training centres, which contains extensive requirements relating to the care of children. It cannot be right that children who are looked after by the state, many of whom are the subject of care orders, are placed in settings which cannot legally care for them.

14.   Over-three quarters of unregulated provision for children in care and care leavers is profit-making. Research undertaken for the DfE found weekly costs of places ranged from £250 to £19,500 per week.[17]

Looked after children living in unregulated settings who are not in education or training

15.   Primary legislation makes it compulsory for children up to the age of 18 to be in full-time education, to be undertaking an apprenticeship or training, or to be volunteering or working part-time while studying or training.[18] The Together Trust recently submitted Freedom of Information Act requests to local authority children’s services in England to find out the numbers of looked after children aged 16 or 17 living in unregulated accommodation who were not in education or training. The data request related to the period between 1 January 2019 and 31 December 2020. Of the 31 local authorities providing data to date[19], 24 were responsible for 1,376 children of compulsory education and training age who were living in an unregulated setting but not in education or training – an average of 57 children per local authority.

Achieving care for all children in care

16.   The DfE proposes to introduce national standards for what is currently unregulated provision, but this will not rectify the fundamental problem with these settings which is that looked after children cannot, by law, receive care. The Care Standards Act 2000[20] requires that establishments which provide looked after children with care and accommodation must be registered with Ofsted as children’s homes. 

17.   One way of achieving care for all looked after children is to require all accommodation providers to meet the existing children’s homes quality standards, or a modified version of them. These standards currently apply to children’s homes, secure children’s homes and to short break accommodation for disabled children.[21] Having this universal framework, guaranteeing care, guidance and support to all looked after children, would not preclude the use of new terminology to describe establishments where older children wholly or predominantly live


18.   In September 2020, the Children’s Commissioner for England recommended that no looked after child under the age of 18 be placed in unregulated accommodation, and that all accommodation providers be required to follow the children’s homes regulations.[22]

Changes introduced by Statutory Instrument 161

19.   The Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2021 (SI 161) introduce new Regulation 27A into the 2010 Regulations.[23] This provides a definition of ‘other arrangements’ in Section 22C(6)(d) Children Act 1989 in respect of the placements of looked after children aged 15 or younger in England, Wales and Scotland.


20.   All of the settings listed in new Regulation 27A (in respect of children aged 15 and younger) are regulated.


21.   New Regulation 27B further provides that where an unaccompanied asylum seeking child has said they are 16 or 17 years old, but they are later assessed as aged 15 or younger, they must be moved to accommodation fitting the requirements of Regulation 27A within 10 working days.


22.   These legal changes introduce an age-based provision in respect of care planning and placement decision-making. We do not believe this is compatible with the parent legislation (Children Act 1989), the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child or Articles 8 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights.


23.   We are very concerned that the Explanatory Memorandum for Statutory instrument 161 does not fully represent the clear position of the Children’s Commissioner for England and many other organisations who believe that all looked after children should receive care. Further, one part of the Memorandum is potentially misleading in stating that 81% of “care experienced young people [in one charity] agreed that banning the placement of children under the age of 16 into unregulated services would be a positive change for those in care”.[24] The documents we have been provided by the DfE show this statistic is an aggregate finding of all those young people who were consulted about unregulated provision for children in care and care leavers by this particular charity. However, 45% of the young people who gave their views had never been in care. The organisation concerned is a homelessness charity.

‘Other arrangements’ – Children Act 1989

24.   Unless this would not be consistent with the child’s welfare, or it is not reasonably practicable, the Children Act 1989 requires local authorities to support children to live with a parent, a person with parental responsibility or a carer with whom a family court formerly said the child should live (through a child arrangements order).[25]

25.   When the above arrangements are not possible, local authorities must place a child in “the most appropriate placement available” from the following options (the duty to safeguard and promote the child’s welfare[26] applies to all):
– A relative, friend or other person who is a local authority foster parent
– A local authority foster parent who doesn’t fall into the above category
– A registered children’s home
Other arrangements which comply with any regulations.[27]

26.   The ‘other arrangements’ provision was in the Children Act 1989 from the start[28]; in 2008, Parliament passed legislation which similarly prioritised the order of placement types, retaining ‘other arrangements at the bottom.[29] At that time, there were 2,700 children in total living independently (1,600) or in unregulated homes and hostels (1,100) – 4.5% of all looked after children. As noted above, the proportion now stands at 8% of the looked after population, which is the same proportion of children living in registered children’s homes.

Children in unregulated provision

27.   A review of children in unregulated provision on 31 March 2019, undertaken for the DfE, found:

    1. 29% of children were the subject of a care order;
    2. 37% of children were placed in unregulated accommodation less than one week from the start of their period in care (thus contradicting the ‘stepping stone to independence’ argument);
    3. More than half of children were from black and minority ethnic communities;
    4. 40% were unaccompanied asylum-seeking children;
    5. Most children in unregulated were boys.[30]


Concerns about the safety and welfare of children in unregulated accommodation

28.   In January 2021, the DfE published data on children who have died or been seriously harmed following abuse or neglect within the family or other settings (‘serious incident notifications’). Article 39 submitted a freedom of information request for disaggregated data, which revealed that four children aged 16 and 17 died, and three children aged 16 and 17 were harmed, in semi-independent accommodation between April and September 2020. There were a further six looked after children in ‘other settings’ including lodgings who died or suffered harm or were notified for some other reason during this period, though disaggregated data was not provided.[31]

29.   In December 2019, a coroner wrote to the Education Secretary after concluding the inquest into the death of 17 year-old Jacob Bates who had autism and had taken his own life after years of struggling with his mental health. Having lived in “a succession of secure placements under the provisions of the Mental Health Act 1983 and the Children Act 1989” from the age of 14, Jacob was latterly put by children’s social care into an unregulated home, before seeking to live with his dad. Although he found no causal link between Jacob’s death and his time in an unregulated setting, the coroner wrote to the Minister to prevent future deaths of 16 to 18 year-olds living in this kind of accommodation. Two former employees had told the inquest they were left in charge after only a short period working there, and neither had previously worked with young people. The local authority had not made appropriate checks on staffing and training or the organisation’s policies. The coroner summed up: “The lack of statutory regulation is placing vulnerable young people at risk, and there is a realistic possibility that deaths may occur”.[32]


30.   BBC Newsnight’s 2019 investigation into ‘Britain’s Hidden Children’s Homes’ revealed:

    1. A 17 year-old, Lance Walker, was killed in supported accommodation in 2016. His death exposed the lack of information-sharing between local authorities and the paucity of provision for very vulnerable young people;
    2. A young woman reported having to use her coat and blanket as a duvet and being “freezing cold” in supported accommodation. She was moved from a foster home, where she was happy, to accommodation late at night. Her bedroom was downstairs; there were no curtains and no bedsheets. She felt desperate and very alone;
    3. A young woman felt “dumped and alone” in supported accommodation; she became depressed and anxious for the first time. Other young people in her accommodation used drugs and drank alcohol in their rooms; this young woman had never experienced this before and found it all “a massive shock”;
    4. The Children’s Commissioner has dealt with cases of children in unregulated accommodation without any bedroom furniture apart from a mattress on the floor, and having to share toilets with adults they don’t know;
    5. Young people suffered violence from staff and from other young people. They spoke of running away many times and of suffering serious sexual and criminal exploitation.

31.   Other media organisations, including Sky News and the Guardian newspaper, have similarly conducted investigations and found older teenage children in desperately unsafe situations.


32.   In September 2020, the Children’s Commissioner for England published a report on the views and experiences of children living in semi-independent accommodation. She explained that children in unregulated accommodation experience “a great deal of instability”, more placement moves and are more likely to go missing than children in other placement types. She found that a “significant proportion” of unregulated accommodation is “very poor quality” and reported children suffering violence, hunger, accommodation which lacked basic facilities such as cutlery, pans or duvet covers, and children being exposed to criminal and sexual exploitation. Children aged 16 and 17 “frequently [lived] alongside vulnerable young adults (usually up to 25 years) battling with their own difficulties, including those struggling with homelessness, mental ill health, addiction, or even transitioning from prison back into the community”.[33]

Department for Education consultation

33.   In February 2020, the DfE launched a public consultation on unregulated provision for children in care and care leavers. This made a number of proposals, including that the placement of looked after children aged 15 and younger in unregulated provision be banned and national standards be developed in respect of unregulated accommodation for looked after children aged 16 and 17. The consultation document did not explain that these standards would have to omit any requirement to provide care to 16 and 17 year-olds (because establishments providing care and accommodation must follow the children’s homes quality standards).


34.   The consultation outcome document reports that over three-quarters of respondents supported the proposed ban on unregulated accommodation for children aged 15 and younger. It said, “This was supported even more strongly in our work with young people, where there was almost unanimous agreement that these settings are not appropriate for children under the age of 16”.[34] This does not accord with our own analysis of the notes of discussions with young people, and their individual responses – see our snapshot summary below. Moreover:


    1. The academic review[35] of the consultation responses, which fed into the DfE’s consultation outcome document, did not include any analysis of the views expressed by the 165+ young people who contributed to the consultation.
    2. The academic review of the consultation responses grouped those like Article 39, Become and The Care Leavers’ Association, which urged protection to age 18, with those who supported the government’s proposal. It reported that 188 of the 233 responses (excluding those from young people) supported the under-16 ban. The DfE’s own outcome document, however, admits that 46 responses called for stronger protection – 40 urging a ban on under-18s and a further 6 urging a ban on children still at secondary school (Year 11) being placed in unregulated accommodation.

      Our own analysis found that a much higher number of respondents – 71 (30%) – proactively raised concerns about 16 and 17 year-olds, and a further 8 gave answers indicating all children need care and/or highlighted legal obligations to children up to age 18. This suggests at least one-third of respondents wanted the DfE to take action to ensure older children in care receive care, despite this question not being part of the consultation. Several particularly raised concerns about children still being in Year 11 at school. Young people also communicated the need for children to receive care and support while still in compulsory education – see snapshot summary below.

      Among the many individual submissions raising the needs and rights of 16 to 18 year-olds were those submitted by statutory agencies (NHS Trusts, local authorities and the police), the Children’s Commissioner for England, Ofsted, Action for Children, NSPCC, Catch 22, TACT Fostering & Adoption, Nagalro, the National Association of Independent Reviewing Officers, the Youth Justice Board and the UN Refugee Agency.
    3. Following the publication of the consultation outcome document, the National Youth Advocacy Service wrote to the Education Secretary explaining that, “The conclusions drawn by the government in relation to unregulated accommodation do not reflect our position or that of the children and young people who we connected the consultation with”.[36] This concurs with our own analysis of the notes from discussions with young people.
    4. Similarly, the consultation session facilitated by Article 39, involving 10 young people, did not indicate support for a ban on unregulated accommodation for younger children only.
    5. Young people raised substantial concerns about the safety and quality of unregulated provision. They were also very aware of the lack of accommodation and were worried about this. Many were also very positive about their current accommodation, though none of these appeared to be under the age of 18. Our snapshot summary below focuses on the under 16s ban, struggles over the age of 16 and the reasons young people gave for semi-independent accommodation being a positive choice. There is considerably more rich information from young people, which we regret the DfE has not reported in its consultation outcome document, covering their experiences of living in foster care and children’s homes; perceptions of social workers, IROs, police and PAs; as well as advice on how to improve the quality of semi-independent accommodation.  


35.   We would greatly welcome the opportunity to give oral evidence on unregulated provision, and strongly encourage the Committee to hear directly from looked after children and young people who are currently living in this type of accommodation, or have lived in these types of settings before.

Contact: Carolyne Willow, Article 39 Director;


ANNEX: Snapshot summary of views and experiences communicated to Department for Education’s consultation on unregulated provision for children in care and care leavers


Support for under 16s ban

“I think it is a good idea, I was in a foster care placement and it works as long as you are treat like family and not like a ‘foster placement kid’.”

“I feel like in accommodation like hostels and supported accommodation, you sort of have to like fend for yourself a bit. In foster care, you have more support and you’re not around people who put you at danger.”


[Young people] described experience of “trying to survive” when first living in unregulated and non

care settings. Under 16s should not be put in this position.


“It isn’t right to be under 16 in 16+. When I was 15, I moved to a 16+ home and I saw people lots older who push the younger people to do drugs and stuff.”

“I have been living in my 16+ service for over one year and I have seen so many people who are 16 and they are not mature enough to be in a semi-independent accommodation, so I don’t see how some places can place even younger people.”

“[A] lot happens in 16+ homes and these are meant for people who are more independent and able to stick up for themselves. It would be mad to put people in this they would have to grow up before their time.”

“That is better as is your first year of college and is important and 16 is very young. There are more risks and people is still immature. Everything is new.”

“I think that it is a good idea as they are too young, foster care is good as it will help them when they need it.”

“I think that it is good as if under 16 year-olds lived in accommodation with people older than them it could cause trouble due to their age and being influenced by others it could also cause trouble for the people that have more independent living skills because they may not behave properly.”


“Yes, it’s a good idea because you still need to be parented because when you’re under 16 you don’t know how to look after yourself properly and you’re not mature enough to be responsible and you still need a lot of help. You should enjoy being a child and wait for the right time to be an adult.”


“I think no one should move into semi-independent or independent living before they are 16. I just don’t think you are ready. You probably need to be at least 17 before going into semi-independent and independent living. You need to have life skills like budgeting, and cooking, but know how to look after yourself.”


“I think you need to have 16+ homes because some young people, when they are 16, they can live quite independently. Before they are 16, it is good if they live with a family, especially if they have come from another country because then they can be shown about what it is like to live in this country and how to do some things and what it might be like in the future. And then when you are 18 you know about how things work, and you can live on your own. But in between you are independent, but you also need some time to try things out like reading your own letters and going to appointments on your own, and it is better when there are staff members around who can help you if you need help.”


Struggles of those aged 16 and over

“I was just 18 and I struggled. I think going into semi-independent living at 16 would really put you back.”


“How do we actually know the difference between regulated and unregulated? Who tells us? The divide between different age groups is also artificial. We’re focusing on 16 to 18 year-olds but a lot of supported accommodation goes up to the age of 25. There shouldn’t be a blanket approach – must be what the individual person needs. Seems like there’s an expectation that everyone will go through supported accommodation; young people are pushed into it when they get to 16, and sometimes earlier.”


“My local authority was poor so didn’t have many nice places for me to go. I ended up in a hostel at 16 while doing my A-levels. There was no upper limit in the hostel, so there were adults there, and I remember my room didn’t have a lock on it.”

“I was 17 and felt I wasn’t ready to be in unregulated so I can’t imagine how an under 16 would feel.”

“As much as kids may not want to say, they still need some proper support. Young people like the 16+ because it’s easier to drink and do drugs. Staff can’t always do things about it. You get people in all walks of life in 16+ and some of them will still need the level of care that you get in 16+. You aren’t even legal to buy alcohol at 16, so why should care stop? At that age you need the extra care. Even the move itself means that you may need the extra care or support. For kids who have moved around a lot it can lead to attachment disorders, meaning they are likely to seek out care elsewhere because they aren’t getting it from the home.”

“I think foster care, as long as it’s good, is better for children under 18. I struggled at semi-independent places due to bad influences.”

Young person was in semi-independent between the ages of 16 and 18. Feels his experience was a lot different from most people. Didn’t feel safe. Staff should have had more advanced DBS checks. He got along with everyone, and the support was great, with the exception of one member of staff who committed a very serious crime against him. He couldn’t turn to his PA for help; he worked through an agency and the trust wasn’t there. Young person then spoke with the manager of a children’s home he had lived in before. He helped.


One young person explained it was only due to her having support and care up to age 19 that she was able to attend university. Explained that from ages 16-17 she was hanging around with a bad crowd, and the only thing that helped her was that she had to go home each night to her foster carer. With the support and care she received from her foster carer she was able to turn her life around and has now successfully graduated university with a 1st class degree. She felt if she had been placed in unregulated accommodation when she was 16-17 years old, she would probably have never even finished college.


“Every human being on this planet has fight or flight. It’s labelled as behavioural but it’s how we’ve learned to survive. It’s a survival system. You have to be like Bear Grylls – and survive – it’s the only thing you know what to do. And then you’re automatically penalised. If you’re not naughty, you’re overlooked. You don’t have a Mum or Dad, they forget that.”

“Young people should only be living in foster care. Every young person deserves a second family if their first one has broken down and should be able to stay into adulthood.”


“We shouldn’t be pushed towards being on our own with less support so young. Everyone deserves to have a foster care placement, even after they are 16, and should only be in a children’s home as a last resort.”

Young person was in foster care which broke down before her 18th birthday. Had been there for many years. She was told she wasn’t welcome anymore. Feels she’s in a one-man street – on her own. When she needed a guarantor for her rent, foster parents refused. She nearly ended up homeless. Social care kept saying they would teach her how to cook but they never did. She only saw her PA three times between the ages of 18 and 21 years. Has felt on her own all her life

– has literally had to do everything on her own. When she first moved into her flat, there was mould all over and poo on the floor. She went to the council to complain but felt that she was taken advantage of because she was just 17 and on her own. They didn’t have to take her seriously. She was rushed into hospital with damage to her lungs caused by the mould.

“Professionals just think we’re angry, but we see our friends with nuclear families and everything.”

“It’s already unfair that we (in the pathway, over 16-18) are pushed towards being on our own with less support so young.”

“The reason why I would like [communal space] is because I am living in a place where there is only a small lounge, which is not big enough for all of us. Before coming to the 16+ service where I live, I was living in a children’s home, so I was very used to spend time with the other residents in a big communal space. However, in my current service I feel quite lonely, as there is not a big place where residents can do things all together and give each other some company.”


[One young person] moved into foster care at around age 15. Felt fortunate as foster carer treated her like a member of family. Stayed with foster carer until age 17. Just after 17th birthday, was told by social worker that she would be moving supported accommodation as she “doesn’t need to be there [foster care] anymore”. [Was put into] supported accommodation soon after decision was made.

Very quickly “exposed to a lot of things” including drug use on the first night. Worst part of this placement was being one hour away from family in a scary environment. At age 18 moved into … a self-contained flat inside a hostel where “you can keep yourself to yourself but still get support.” Struggled in this accommodation… Then transferred into the hostel part of the accommodation and this really helped. Found staff very supportive and provided help with mental health issues. Initially didn’t talk to many people due to fear of being bullied but began attending activities … such as canoeing, which gave more hope for the future.


“Children’s homes or 16+ Homes should not be in gang affiliated areas.”


“There should also be minimum standards for staff. Some staff aren’t aware of the different rules and the rights people have. We won’t tell you this, but we want people who care.”

“People need help when they are 16 so that they can learn how to do things. If this doesn’t happen you see them in prison or homeless. If they get help, then you will see things are ok.”

The local authority moved him into his own house at 17 years with 9 hours a week support. He couldn’t manage so he was put in dispersed housing. There were drug dealers there and he had to be rescued by the police. He was then moved to a Bed and Breakfast. This young person had been in care since he was 3 years old.

“Living on your own, you struggle to set your own rules, like sitting down and doing your homework. If you are young, you are really going to struggle with keeping focused with your education.”


[One young person] complained multiple times but was only moved after contracting pneumonia (which resulted from being refused central heating by the landlord).


[Young people] felt that once [they] turned 16 foster carers/ children’s homes didn’t ‘want’ them so much, so potential for them to be moved into semi-independent to ‘get rid of them’. Very worried this would only happen more, or the fear that it could happen might negatively impact young people.


“It seems anyone can become a support worker. I’m never going to progress unless I have a parental figure of high quality.”


“There’s a lot expected of you when you’re 16 to 18. It’s not easy when you haven’t got parents or siblings or sometimes even friends. They should step back and think how we feel.”

Important to consider that placement breakdowns are more likely for 16+. Young people may be feeling more vulnerable after a placement breakdown and could then be placed in an unregulated setting which does not support them through this.


Some residential children’s homes do not offer Staying Put. [there was the] feeling that those aged 17 who are unable to stay put do not get the same chances as a young person who has been able to stay with a foster carer. In ‘normal families’ children stay at home sometimes for years after 18.

“I lived at my Dad’s and he was an alcoholic and used to come home and hit me. I got onto my social worker and she said that she could find me a place in a hostel. I had a look at it and moved in a few days later. When I saw it, I thought it was perfect. It was better than my dad’s and I just wanted a place for myself, rather than being with him. It was alright, I just regret getting kicked out really.”


One young person said due to “feeling down” she was not attending school, so her placement was terminated, and she was forced to move to semi-independent provision: “I just needed some support to get me back to school”.


“You need to be taught about basic life skills. I still don’t know how to register for a dentist, because no one has ever taught me. Things that most people would just ask their mum becomes a mission to find out.”

“When you are in semi-independent living you need someone to keep you in line. You don’t have parents telling you off when you do stupid stuff that teenagers all do. You don’t get it explained to you why it’s stupid and why you should stop. If you haven’t got parents looking out for you, you just carry on being stupid. You also can get groomed and fall for things that you wouldn’t if you had caring adults in your life.”


Found the experience of being in unregulated tense and awkward. It’s like a house without parents. Been in a place with 25 rooms and one with 8 rooms felt awkward in both. Home is where you feel like you belong. With placements you just keep moving around. Never felt like I’ve had a home a place that’s familiar.

Concerns about lack of homes for children

“I personally think it has pros and cons. It is fantastic that these placements will be regulated, however what about those that would not be able to cope in a foster placement or in a children’s home? Where do they then go?”


“Are you also able to seek more placements as surely this is going to increase the amount of bed spaces needed?”


“I hear that there are a shortage of foster placements up and down the country; will this prove to be a bigger problem?”

“I only agree on improving accommodations not closing them down as this will cause more issues such as homelessness.”


Lack of choice of placement was unanimously experienced. All young people present described significant disruption because of being moved to various locations at different points. This included being moved some distance away with no support network yet expected to travel back to original location for college.


Young people choosing unregulated provision and/or seeing this as a positive choice

“What about these children that simply cannot cope in these regulated settings Sometimes it is in the best interests of the child to be somewhere else.”


“I like the freedom of 16+ and this place is quite good, I think I’m lucky.”

“I think that it is a bad idea [to ban under 16s in unregulated] as that doesn’t teach the young people anything. It would mean that they go to another family and be mothered/fathered then they will be kicked out into the real world. They should be allowed in semi-independent so that they can learn from the staff and the young people, but they should be in separate buildings from over 18’s so they do not mix.”

“People have been around when I have needed them. They have given me quite a lot of support. I didn’t think I could live alone when I came from foster care. I have now lived in my flat for 14 months. From my trauma (life experiences) I generally feel unsafe most of the time. There is CCTV and I can contact staff if I have any concerns. I have received support to attend appointments for my physical and mental health.”

“I don’t think that I would have wanted to go into foster care, so I don’t think it would be good if more people in my position were going into foster care, although I don’t know if I’m just saying that because I haven’t been on foster care. The way I see it, if you have a foster carer who sees things differently to you, or who has a different cultural background to you, there might be loads of things that one of you does that annoys the other one, and eventually they’ll be a situation where someone tells the other person to ‘shut up’ or something and you can’t really go back from there. If there’s something me and a staff member here disagree about, it’s calm – I can just speak to other staff members, but if you’re in foster care it’s not like that. Also, in foster care there’s this constant thing of ‘you’re not my mum’ and it’s complicated and difficult and will come up every time there’s an argument.”


In some cases it is worse to be in a children's home or with foster carers ... some children feel safer in supported accommodation and prefer to be more independent.”


“I don’t agree with putting 16+ staying with a foster family.”

“Moving into semi-independent was the best thing to happen to me. I was really depressed, and a friend’s mum noticed things were going bad in my foster care. Moving here has given me a new outlook on life and has helped with my autism.”


“I think fundamentally there are a lot of issues that arise within the foster care system …There is as much risk in the care system as there is living by yourself in supported accommodation environment.”

“Foster carers want to you to be part of the family. [Here] you get your own space and independence.”


April 2021

[1] The campaign is run by a steering group of organisationsArticle 39, Become, The Care Leavers’ Association, Just for Kids Law, National Association of Independent Reviewing Officers, Norman Galloway Homes and the Together Trustas well as several individuals with many decades of experience in children’s social care. More information about the campaign can be found here:

[2] Article 39 obtained these responses on 7 April 2021 following a Freedom of Information Act request. The analysis was undertaken by Carolyne Willow, Article 39’s Director, and Jacki Rothwell, a retired independent reviewing officer.

[3] Part 2, The Children’s Homes (England) Regulations 2015.

[4] Section 22 Children Act 1989.

[5] This change will come into force in September 2021 through The Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2021.

[6] Children looked after by characteristics 31 March 2020 – data published February 2021.

[7] On 31 March 2019, there were 100 looked after children aged 15 and younger in unregulated provision; and increase of 76% from March 2015. Ten of these children were primary school-aged (under 12) – Department for Education (February 2021) Looked after children aged under 16 in unregulated placements.

[8] Published 4 March 2021:

[9] Response of the Judges of the Family Division of the High Court, June 2020.

[10] Response from British Association of Social Workers.

[11] Response from Association of Directors of Children’s Services Ltd.

[12] Response from Association of Directors of Children’s Services Ltd.

[13] Response from The Children’s Society.

[14] Section 22G Children Act 1989.

[15] Section 7 Children and Young Persons Act 2008.

[16] Task Force documents were obtained by Article 39 following a freedom of information request.

[17] Greatbatch, D. and Tate, S. (2020) Use of unregulated and unregistered provision for children in care. Department for Education.

[18] Sections 1 and 2 Education and Skills Act 2008.

[19] A further 6 local authorities either refused a response on the grounds that it would take too long to retrieve the information (3 responses) or said they do not have the data in a reportable format (3 responses).

[20] Section 1(3) Care Standards Act 2000.

[21] The Children’s Homes (England) Regulations 2015.

[22] Children’s Commissioner for England (September 2020) Unregulated. Children in care living in semi-independent accommodation.

[23] The Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010.

[24] Paragraph 10.4:

[25] Section 22(3)-(4) Children Act 1989.

[26] Section 22 Children Act 1989.

[27] Section 22C Children Act 1989. NB provision for “other arrangements” was present from 1989.

[28] Section 23(2)(f) Children Act 1989 as introduced.

[29] Section 8 Children and Young Persons Act 2008.

[30] Department for Education (2020) Looked after children in independent or semi-independent placements.

[31] Department for Education’s 16 March 2021 response to Article 39’s FOI request.


[33] Children’s Commissioner for England (September 2020) Unregulated. Children in care living in semi-independent accommodation.

[34] February 2021:

[35] February 2021: