Need for Government to be a "better parent" for care leavers, says Yorkshire academic

A concerted effort for the Government to be a “better parent,” and improve support for care leavers by imposing a ban for placing under-18s in unregulated housing is “imperative”, says a leading academic in Yorkshire.

The call to action comes as the Government confirmed a £51m funding package for councils in England to support care leavers.

All unregulated accommodation for 16 and 17-year-olds who are leaving care will have to meet a national standard under new proposals.

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The Government has announced a £51m funding package for councils in England to support care leavers. While all unregulated accommodation for 16 and 17-year-olds who are leaving care will have to meet a national standard under new proposals. Photo credit: stock.adobe.com

The aim is to boost the quality of accommodation and ensure consistency of provision across the country, as outlined in a Government consultation yesterday, Monday 24, May.

But a leading academic in Yorkshire has warned the funding does not come “close” to help stop thousands of young people, who are moving out of the care system in the region and across England, from being forgotten.

Dr Katie Ellis, from the University of Sheffield, who has written major reports to shape government policy and challenge the stigma associated with young people who are care experienced, told The Yorkshire Post: “As a corporate parent, the government should be prepared to support young people in care, in any way it can.

“I am disappointed to see such a small amount of funding... Surely these young people are in need of the most support?! I would urge policy makers to reconsider this.”

Pictured Dr Katie Ellis, from the University of Sheffield, who has written major reports to shape government policy and challenge the stigma associated with young people who are care experienced. Photo credit: Submitted picture

Dr Ellis highlighted care leavers make up 25 per cent of the homeless population, while approximately 10,000 young people leave care every year.

"£50 million sounds a lot, but since approximately 10,000 young people leave care every year, £50 million would equate to around approximately £5k of support per care leaver, without even including those who left care in the previous year," Dr Ellis said.

She added: "While this money might fill some of the gaps that are evident already, more funding is needed to properly support young people leaving care.

Dr Ellis also reiterated Anne Longfield, the former Children’s Commissioner for England, call from last year to change the law to stop councils placing under 18s in care in unregulated accommodation.

Pictured, Anne Longfield, the former Children’s Commissioner for England. Last year she called change the law to stop councils placing under 18s in care in unregulated accommodation. Photo credit: JPIMedia

The change would see all children in care who need a residential placement housed in accommodation regulated under the same standards as children’s homes, and would put an end to 16 and 17 year olds being placed in bedsits, hostels and caravans.

Dr Ellis said: "I remain disappointed that the DfE allows young people in care to be placed in unregulated accommodation after the age of 15.

"The Children's Commissioner called for an outright ban on unregulated accommodation in 2020, which I support completely."

Unregulated homes, often known as supported accommodation for those over 16, are not inspected by a regulator in England or Wales.

They are allowed within the law because they are qualified to offer support not care, and young people housed there live semi-independently.

Ofsted have been given extra powers by Education Secretary Gavin Williamson to take enforcement action against illegal unregistered children’s homes under changes unveiled by Williamson.

Mr Williamson said: “Every young person in care deserves to live in accommodation that meets their needs and keeps them safe – anything less is unacceptable, and so continuing to prioritise children in care or leaving care is absolutely vital.”

He has previously said it will be illegal to put children under 16 in unregulated accommodation from September this year.

The Government's support package is to fund a range of schemes including £33m of continued investment in the Staying Put scheme, which helps looked-after children who want to stay with their foster carers after their 18th birthday.

There is £3.6m to extend the Staying Close pilot, which gives extra support for young people leaving residential care, and £12m for councils to continue to provide personal advisers to support care leavers up to the age of 25.

There is also £2.7m for intensive support for care leavers at high risk of homelessness.

Mr Williamson said the aim is to help the most vulnerable “by providing safer homes, reducing isolation among young people leaving care, and by making sure they have a strong support network to rely on as they take steps into adult life”.

The Department for Education is also set to provide over 5,000 more laptops for care leavers through the Get Help with Technology scheme, to help prevent loneliness and isolation.

In a special report last year The Yorkshire Post warned a lack of investment in all stages of the care journey is stifling children’s ambitions and life prospects as an underfunded social care system, with a sudden cut-off from the age of 18, continues to hold back young people’s dreams.

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