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Young People in Unregulated Placements

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This chapter identifies the steps and planning that must be undertaken when a Young Person is considered for a Placement that is ‘unregulated’.

RELEVANT GUIDANCE

The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review

The Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000

The Care Standards Act 2000

RELEVANT CHAPTERS

Leaving Care Procedure


Contents

  1. Placement of Children in Unregulated Placements
  2. Regulatory and Legislative Background


1. Placement of Children in Unregulated Placements

The assessment of the child’s needs to inform his/her care or Pathway Plan may conclude that for some children these needs will best be met by a placement in ‘other arrangements' (Regulation 27, Care Planning, Placement and Case Review Regulations 2010).

These placements will not be regulated under the Care Standards Act 2000 and as a result will not be inspected by Ofsted. In these circumstances, it is essential that the child’s needs are matched to the services provided by the placement.

Some unregulated settings provide suitable placements for Looked After Children. In every case, before making the placement the local authority must establish that the accommodation is suitable. Suitable accommodation is accommodation:

  • Which, so far as reasonably practicable, is suitable for the child in light of his/her needs, including his/her health needs;
  • In respect of which the responsible authority has satisfied itself as to the character and suitability of the landlord or other provider;
  • Which complies with health and safety requirements related to rented accommodation; and
  • In respect of which the responsible authority has, so far as reasonably practicable, taken into account the child’s:
    • Wishes and feelings; and
    • Education, training or employment needs.

The 2010 Regulations set out factors that must be considered in determining whether accommodation is suitable for individual care leavers (Schedule 6, Care Planning, Placement and Case Review Regulations 2010). These are set out below.

Facilities and Services Provided

Consideration of facilities and services will be particularly relevant where the young person is not placed in a domestic setting, (i.e. with a host family as part of a supported lodgings arrangement or where s/he chooses to live with family or friends), but is placed in accommodation where s/he is independent or sharing the occupancy. The responsible authority will need to take the following issues into account:

  • The space available in the property:
    • Where the property is shared with others the young person must have his/her own lockable room allowing him/her privacy;
    • Where the young person is in education or training the property should offer study space, in his/her own room or elsewhere.
  • The bathing and toilet facilities, which must be sufficient for the number of occupants in the property;
  • Whether the state of repair of the furniture is adequate where the property is already furnished prior to the young person moving in; and
  • The adequacy of the heating and hot water.

State of Repair

The property must be ‘habitable’ - i.e. structurally sound, free from damp and in an adequate state of repair. In addition, the household appliances must be useable and fit for purpose. The young person should be fully informed about who is responsible for repairs and maintenance to the property, fittings and fixtures and of what to do and who to contact in an emergency, for example, a water leak or if the heating breaks down.

Safety

The responsible authority will need to check, as far as reasonably practicable, that:

  • The landlord possesses a current up to date gas safety certificate, that any fire detection equipment works and that if there was a fire, the property could be evacuated safely;
  • The electrical wiring has been checked within the last five years, and any electrical appliances in the property must be safe; and
  • The accommodation is secure, (e.g. is there a burglar alarm; locks on windows; mortice locks), and the local authority knows whether the previous tenant has returned all their keys or that the locks have been changed.

The landlord should have all the necessary buildings and liability insurance cover for the accommodation.

Location

There should be adequate transport links between the property and the young person’s place of education, training or employment and the accommodation should be reasonably accessible to people in the young person’s personal support network, health and leisure services and other amenities.

The area where the property is located should be thought to be generally safe at night. Where the assessment of the property’s suitability for the individual young person suggests that there are concerns about the safety of the area where the property is situated, it will be even more important to ensure that the accommodation is secure.

Support

Where the young person is placed in accommodation that comes with housing related support, then the support to be provided must contribute to responding to his/her assessed needs. Similarly, where the young person is placed in ‘supported lodgings’, the support to be provided must be carefully matched to his/her needs.

The responsible authority should establish how the accommodation provider has been selected, assessed and trained; and how they are supervised. It will be important that the suitability of accommodation providers is kept under regular review.

The responsible authority will need to take steps to be satisfied that the assessment and selection process has involved proper independent scrutiny, involving safeguarding checks and checks on the provider’s financial viability, to establish that the provider has the necessary skills and competencies to respond to the needs of the young person in order to achieve the goals agreed as part of his/her care plan.

Tenancy Status

Where young people are occupying the accommodation as tenant in their own name then the authority should take steps to ensure that the young person understands his/her rights and responsibilities under the tenancy agreement and, where there is uncertainty, make sure that the young person has access to independent advice.

The Financial Commitments Involved for the Young Person and their Affordability

At the commencement of any tenancy the responsible authority must establish that the accommodation is affordable for the young person on the income available to him/her and there is clarity about the services that all charges are intended to cover.

At the time that the young person moves in, arrangements should be in place for funding rent, any service charges, utilities and other tenancy costs.

Other costs linked to the location of the property, for example transport costs to the young person’s place of education and/or work, should be taken into account.

The responsible authority will need to establish that the young person understands the nature of the funding arrangements and his/her responsibilities for contributing to the costs of rent, utilities and other tenancy costs. Arrangements should be agreed between the authority and the young person about whether the contents of the accommodation should be insured and how premiums will be covered.

If the young person is expected to be able to remain in the property after s/he reaches the age of 18, consideration should also be given to these elements of affordability in the light of the young person’s likely financial situation once s/he is no longer maintained by the local authority. This may involve liaising with the local housing benefit department regarding the levels of housing benefit or local housing allowance likely to be available if the young person needs help with paying his/her rent.

The responsible authority must establish the young person’s views about the suitability of any accommodation (Schedule 6, paragraph (2), Care Planning, Placement and Case Review Regulations 2010) young people should be familiar with how their needs have been assessed and how this assessment has informed the provision of services and support set out in their care and pathway plan. Discussions between the young person and his/her social worker about this extremely important issue must make sure that the young person appreciates the implications of his/her tenancy and recognises what is expected of them. S/he must be offered sufficient information, support and advice so that s/he understands any financial commitments and expectations that fall to him/her. The responsible authority must make sure that the young person knows what s/he should do if his/ her financial circumstances change or if there is an increase in the costs of the accommodation. This essential information must be recorded in the young person’s Pathway Plan.

The factors outlined above are not intended to limit choice for young people who wish to and are ready to move to more independent accommodation as part of preparing them for the transition to adult responsibilities. However, these factors outline the issues that will need to be considered at both a strategic and an individual level whenever commissioning unregulated accommodation for this group. Attention to these factors will assist authorities to be responsible corporate parents by ensuring that whenever children are placed in ‘other arrangements’ they can be provided with the necessary stability and support.

The primary issue to be addressed in making a placement in ‘other arrangements’, just as in any other placement setting, will be how making this placement meets the assessed needs of the individual child.

Where a move to ‘other arrangements’ takes place as part of the pathway planning process to prepare a Looked After Child for the transition to adulthood, then this move will represent a significant change to the young person’s care plan. Such a move should only take place following careful planning that will have been scrutinised at the young person’s review meeting, chaired by his/her personal Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO).

The review must establish that a pathway plan is in place. The plan must indicate how it is intended that the proposed move will meet the young person’s needs - e.g. that the support to be provided is adequate and will help to develop his/her personal skills. The review too must be satisfied that the young person has been properly prepared and will be able to manage in new accommodation. It should be routine practice that the young person will have visited any proposed new accommodation so that s/he is able to take an informed view about its suitability.

The move should maintain as much stability as possible and, in particular, enable the young person to pursue his/her chosen education, training or employment options. The prospective accommodation providers should participate in this crucial review meeting. This will allow the review to establish whether the expectations about what the move is intended to achieve will realistically address the young person’s needs as set out in the proposed plan. As at every other review, the young person should be supported to take an active part in the meeting, so that all involved can understand how the move is intended to support the young person’s future needs and aspirations.

Regulation 12(3)(c) requires that, where a young person is placed in ‘other arrangements’, then the local authority must make a Placement Plan involving the young person and the person responsible for supporting him/her in the accommodation. This should be the person who will have the most day to day contact with the young person, for example their ‘key worker’ or supported lodgings host/carer. Any support plan setting out how the supported accommodation service will support the young person should be integral to the placement plan and avoid duplication.

The placement planning process should involve an exchange of all the necessary information included as part of the young person’s pathway plan, so that the accommodation provider has a full understanding of the young person’s needs and their role in responding to these. Part 3 of the 2010 Regulations sets out all the matters which must be included in a Placement Plan. Where children are placed in ‘other arrangements’, it will be essential that the provider appreciates the arrangements that the local authority proposes to put in place to make sure that the child is adequately supported. The placement plan must be explicit about the respective roles and responsibilities of the placement provider and the child’s social worker, their IRO and of other staff employed or commissioned by the authority to contribute to the plan for the child’s care.

The plan must include:

  • The respective safeguarding responsibilities of the provider and local authority;
  • The frequency of visits the child can expect from their responsible authority;
  • Communication arrangements between the provider and the local authority;
  • The provider’s responsibilities for notifying the child’s social worker and accountable staff of the authority of any significant change in the child’s circumstances; and
  • Arrangements for giving notice of intention to terminate the placement (along with the authority’s responsibilities for convening a review of the child’s care and pathway plan where there is a risk of the placement being terminated).


2. Regulatory and Legislative Background

See also Leaving Care Procedure.

  • All young people who are aged 16 or 17 who have been looked after by a local authority for a total of at least 13 weeks which began after s/he reached the age of 14 and ends after s/he reaches the age of 16, and who are still looked after, will be entitled to services to enable them to make a successful transition to the responsibilities of adulthood under the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000. These young people are classed as ‘eligible children’.

End