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Children's social care

NLCBF responds to call for evidence from Education Committee inquiry on “Children’s Homes”

The Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, taken from across the River Thames. Overlaid is text that reads: "Consultation Response".

In April 2021, the Education Committee called for evidence that examines the educational outcomes and destinations, the quality of support provided by children’s homes, unregulated provision, rates of criminalisation, the sufficiency of children’s home places, and the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The National Leaving Care Benchmarking Forum (NLCBF) has a large and active membership of 121 Local Authority leaving care teams. The aim of the forum is to stimulate and disseminate best practice on a national scale to improve outcomes for Care Leavers. At the heart of the forum is the Young Person’s Benchmarking Forum, with the voice of Care Leavers shaping the direction of the forum and integral to the forum’s events and work. The NLCBF is run by the charity Catch 22 and funded through membership fees from local authorities.

This evidence has been collated in consultation with:

  • Danni, Care Leaver aged 20, currently living in supported accommodation and about to move into her own property. Danni previously lived in unregulated private accommodation.
  • Umar, Care Leaver aged 25 who has his own property having moved on from Supported Accommodation.
  • Leaving Care Manager, Newcastle City Council – It is clear that this local authority benefit from a large portfolio of accommodation options, which many of our local authority members would not have, and there are some examples of good practice outlined.
  • Darren Bishton, National Leaving Care Benchmarking Forum Practice Lead, who has over 20 years frontline experience working in Leaving Care.

Core recommendations

  1. Availability of local children’s homes, where children and young people can easily keep in contact with family is vital and this needs to include secure units and step-down provision. As well as enabling young people to keep in contact with their family, friends and local culture, it also offers opportunities around ‘staying close’ support post-18, whether that is a formal or informal arrangement.
  2. Relationships between young people and Childrens’ Homes staff are key and young people do well when there is ‘stickability’ or commitment to keep getting alongside the young person and a commitment to going the extra mile from staff.
  3. Where staff from Children’s homes and unregulated accommodation are proactive around education, this leads to positive outcomes around young people’s engagement.
  4. Having a large portfolio of accommodation options is very positive and unregulated accommodation can be a positive option within this for some young people, depending on the provider. In some cases, unregulated accommodation offers a flexible/bespoke service that is not available from regulated providers, and can extend post 18. There is a role for commissioning and the new Standards here to ensure quality of unregulated accommodation.
  5. The private sector has an important role to play within the care system in providing care for the most complex young people but they also need to offer value for money, provide stability, security, effective preparation for independence and support young people toward reunification with families, where appropriate.
  6. Planning for accommodation post 18 needs to start earlier, involving the Care Leaver, their Personal Adviser and any support workers they have.
  7. Preparation for independence needs to be improved across accommodation providers for young people as they prepare to leave care. This could include the use of training flats.
  8. Care Leavers face significant barriers to engaging with employment while living in Supported Accommodation, post 18 due to Housing Benefit / U.C. arrangements around payment of the rent – the Care Leaver will be better off through being employed as rents for supported accommodation are so expensive.
  9. Some Supported Accommodation options place Care Leavers post 18 at greater risk of exploitation and substance misuse, so we need to ensure there are a good range of accommodation options for Care Leavers with different needs.
  10. UASC young people are often dealing with their families being in difficult situations as well as their own trauma, and this impacts their emotional wellbeing. Living in supported accommodation, with its barriers to employment can exacerbate this as they are not able to send money back to families in difficulty.

“This system needs some injection and this injection is called ‘Care.’ The people who built this system, need a Care Leaver at the table with them.”

– Umar, care leaver