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Mayor Dave Hodgson delighted as Council passes motion on Out of Area Placements

October 11, 2019 8:30 AM

Dave Hodgson with river behindMayor of Bedford Borough, Dave Hodgson, has expressed delight at the Council passing a motion on 'Out of Area Placements' unanimously.

Mayor Dave said "There are nearly 40 residential properties in Bedford Borough being used for unregulated post-16 semi-independent living placements by other local authorities. Whilst the local authorities who place children in Bedford continue to be responsible for those children, we have concerns about the impact this is having on young people in these properties and also residents in neighbouring properties."

The Council motion endorsed the recommendations of the All Party Parliamentary Group for missing and runaway children's report 'No Place At Home'. The motion calls on the government to change the law to ensure that unregulated semi-independent supported accommodation for children is regulated and inspected and that the Department for Education develop an Emergency Action Plan to significantly reduce the number of out of area placements.

Iryna Pona, Policy Manager at The Children's Society said "The APPG inquiry we supported found the number of children placed in unregulated out of area semi-independent accommodation has almost doubled in the last 3 years. This is hugely concerning as these homes are not subject to the same checks by Ofsted as regulated homes. It means there is no way to ensure they provide quality care and support for the children who live there and that children are safeguarded properly, particularly when they go missing in the new area. We welcome Bedford Council's support of the inquiry's recommendations. It is only with backing like this that can we can work to reduce the number of children placed inappropriately out of area in unregulated and unregistered accommodation, left feeling isolated and exposed to high risk."

The full set of recommendations are as follows:

  1. The law must be changed to ensure that unregulated semi-independent supported accommodation for children is regulated and inspected.
  2. The Department for Education should develop an Emergency Action Plan to significantly reduce the number of out of area placements. The Government must take responsibility for ensuring that there are sufficient local placements to meet the needs of looked after children. The plan should address the supply and the distribution of children's homes nationally, and the use of unregulated semi-independent provision. It should be backed by funding from Central Government, fairly weighted to the areas where there is most pressure.
  3. The Department for Education should produce best practice guidelines on what a good sufficiency strategy should look like. They must follow up and ensure that all local authorities have updated their strategies and supply appropriate funding to do so.
  4. Local authorities should receive the funding from government to produce up to date assessments of available and required number of local placements for their looked after population to feed into the Emergency Action Plan.
  5. The Department for Education should commission research to better understand the cost of different placements by type of provider and complexity and type of support provided to recommend a standard cost of provision.
  6. Ofsted should have additional powers to look into financial viability of care providers and around the cost of care, similar to CQC.
  7. Ofsted should assess and report on the number of children and young people that each semi-independent living home or company refuses to accept.
  8. Local authorities should receive the funding required to publish sufficiency reports on an annual basis stipulating the number of in and out of area placements and the cost of provision for scrutiny.
  9. The Department for Education should collect and publish data on 1) the number of children in out of area placements 2) in placements at a distance, by a) types of placements b) stability of placements, c) age of the child and d) rates of children going missing from those placements.
  10. The Government should introduce the national missing persons database to ensure that there is reliable data on the number of children missing and that information is shared promptly across the local authority and police borders when a child goes missing or is found in an area different than their home area.
  11. The Department for Education and Home Office should jointly lead the development of a cross-departmental strategy on tackling child criminal exploitation, backed up with changes to relevant statutory guidance, to ensure that professionals working with children are clear about how to respond to child criminal exploitation. The strategy should specifically address the risk of child criminal exploitation, including through the County Lines model, of looked after children in out of area placements.
  12. The same rules that currently apply to children's homes around risk assessment of suitability of location, statement of purpose, and information shared about the location with police should apply to all currently unregulated accommodation where children are placed. A standard registration and regulatory process for semi-independent accommodation where children under the age of 18 are housed should be introduced.
  13. Good practice guidance on how to support children in out of area placements should be cascaded and rolled out, this should include information on supporting children and young people to maintain contact with their family and friends as well as information on providing opportunities for young people to learn new skills about keeping themselves safe in their new area and in developing healthy relationships.
  14. Notification procedure about children being placed out of area should include information about a risk of a child going missing and a safety plan to address that risk. These plans should be shared with the host local authority as well as with the host police force. The notifications should also include the name of professionals in the responsible and host local authorities who will be the point of contact for the police if a child goes missing from out of area placement.
  15. On placing a child outside the child's home area the placing authority should stipulate the named provider of independent return home interviews in case a child goes missing.
  16. A new requirement should be placed on children's services and appropriately funded to provide evidence that children and young people have been consulted and informed in advance and supported to prepare for any out of area moves. Contact with family and friends must be supported and planned for.
  17. Every out of area placement decision must be supported by evidence to demonstrate that the decision to place a child at a distance is to keep that child safe and will meet their long term needs and stipulate the reasons for out of area placement.