new legislation fails the most vulnerable

New legislation fails the needs of the most vulnerable children in society

The pandemic has plunged more young people into the care system, placing pressure on all relevant legal and social work professionals, including the courts and local authorities. It has been reported that three-quarters of children’s residential settings in England are privately run, which can mean that they can choose whether a child fits their criteria rather than questioning whether the placement actually fits the welfare needs of the child.  This means that the most vulnerable children could be placed in unregulated and unsuitable placements.

Senior Associate Nicola McDaid explains further.


On Friday 19th February 2021 the Department for Education announced that it will ban the use of unregulated accommodation (this is accommodation which is not Ofsted approved, registered or inspected by the council) for children in care aged 15 and under. This means as from September 2021 through amending

The Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010

it will be illegal to place children in unregulated accommodation.

Vulnerable children

The government’s change in legislation is intended to ensure that the most vulnerable children are cared for in placements which best meet their needs.

However, this ban does not affect the thousands of 16 and 17-year-olds who already reside in unapproved, unregistered and unregulated placements which can be known as semi-independent or supported accommodation and are not inspected by a regulator in England or Wales.

Sadly, many children aged 16 and 17 years old, having already experienced abuse, trauma and/or exploitation and who may end up in these unregulated settings, are also the most vulnerable children who clearly need the additional support which will not be provided to them under this new legislation.

New legislation

Many legal professionals have already expressed concern that this new legislation won’t meet the welfare needs of these children, at a time when they need it the most, as they progress to adulthood. There is a feeling amongst legal and social work professionals that this could create a two-tier system, with the state effectively washing its hands of young people when they get past a certain age.

The government has promised it will look to introduce national standards for unregulated accommodation for older children in care and care leavers (a child 16 years old or above) to ensure the standard of placements are a high quality and that will meet the welfare needs of these children, but unfortunately such legislation is not yet in force.

Without question this is a very worrying time when the burden on the system means that more unregulated placements are having to be utilised, and it is hoped that the government will make this a priority to ensure that all children of all ages have the best possible care when they are unable to reside with their families.

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