Children and young people who need a social worker, and who are in or have left care are some of the most vulnerable in our society. It is a priority for this Government that these children and young people have the support, protection and care they deserve. I want to update the House on recent developments in this space.
Review of care
The importance of children’s social care was signalled in the Government manifesto. We must challenge ourselves to do all we can in making sure every child who needs a social worker and who enters care has the best possible chance to succeed in life, realising the benefit to individuals and society of overcoming such adversity in childhood.
That is why we are committed to undertaking a review at the earliest opportunity. I can confirm that this review will be bold and broad, taking a fundamental look across children’s social care, with the aim of better supporting, protecting and improving the outcomes of vulnerable children and young people.
I can confirm that we are moving forward with plans for this review, and that it will be independently led. We will ensure the review reflects the experiences of those who have needed a social worker and been in care, putting children, young people and their families at its centre. We will set out further details in due course.
Reforms to unregulated provision for children in care and care leavers
The review will allow for careful consideration of challenges faced across children’s social care, and while it is an early priority, we will take time to get this right.
There are, however, issues that cannot wait and require immediate action. Every child and young person should have access to a stable and secure placement in accommodation that can meet their needs and, most importantly, keep them safe.
These placements are an important step towards independence for older children. However, we are concerned that independent and semi-independent settings are not always good enough, putting children and young people at risk. We are particularly concerned about increases in the number of children under the age of 16 being placed in this type of provision, with 660 children who were aged under 16 when their placement started placed in this provision during 2018-19. This is why we are consulting on banning the use of independent and semi-independent placements for children and young people under the age of 16.
Reform is needed as a matter of urgency to ensure this provision is being used appropriately and meets the needs of the young people placed there. I will today be publishing a consultation that invites views on a set of new measures to ensure appropriate use of these placements. The proposals include introducing new checks and balances into the system, including national standards for providers and measures to drive up the quality of provision.
Our proposals include:
banning the use of independent and semi-independent placements for children and young people under the age of 16;
driving up the quality of support offered in independent and semi-independent provision, through the introduction of new national standards, and ensuring that these standards are enforced, and that young people’s interests are appropriately represented by their independent reviewing officer (IRO);
introducing new measures so that local authorities and local police forces liaise before a placement in such provision is made; and
giving Ofsted new legal powers to act against illegal providers.
We are keen to hear views on the proposals and their impact. The consultation will be available at: https://consult. education.gov.uk/unregulated-provision/unregulated-provision-children-in-care/. It will be open for response until 8 April.