Unregulated homes are placements for children who are in the care of a local authority. However, the placements are not inspected by a regulator in England and Wales. They are also known as “semi-independent or supported accommodation”.

The Children’s Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, has stated that the government should stop placing children in unregulated placements due to concerns regarding criminal and sexual exploitation.

In her report, ‘Unregulated: Children in care living in semi-independent accommodation’, Ms Longfield noted that children are being placed in unregulated placements including in flats, hostels or bedsit. They have also been placed in caravans, tents and in one case even a barge.

The lack of regulation of placements facilitates access to vulnerable children by organised crime gangs and dangerous individuals, who often groom children into selling and using drugs in addition to sexual exploitation.

In February 2020, the government launched an eight-week consultation into banning local authorities from placing under-16s in unregulated children’s homes. It proposed that the ban would be enforced by a new Ofsted inspection scheme. Ofsted currently regulates children’s homes in England.

Education secretary, Gavin Williamson, stated that “If a local authority thinks they can continue to place children in those types of environment, quite simply they will have those powers withdrawn in order to be able to continue to look after children’s services.”

However, the proposed regime did not apply to over 16s living in unregulated children’s homes. Children aged between 16 and 18 years old continue to be placed in unregulated homes. Between 2018 and 2019, approximately 12,000 children resided in unregulated children’s homes.

Nearly 75% of unregulated children’s homes are private. Ms Longfield stated that some providers are “making extraordinary profits” and avoid “routine procedures designed to keep children safe, including DBS checks”.

At Farleys, we frequently represent individuals who have had similar experiences both in regulated and unregulated children’s homes. Some of our clients were groomed and exploited by drug dealers or grooming gangs, meaning that they seemingly “absconded” from children’s homes rather than being abducted. However, relevant local authorities fail to address the reason that the child is missing from the children’s home, or conduct proper investigations as to where the child has been and with whom, upon the child’s return. This is something that was explored by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse following their investigation into Nottinghamshire Councils Children’s Homes in 2018/2019. Without these measures taking place, it is difficult to prevent the same from reoccurring.

If you or someone you know has been the victim of abuse or have been affected by abuse, whilst we appreciate that it is often difficult to talk about what has happened, our team is experienced and dedicated to speaking with you in the strictest of confidence. Call our dedicated abuse line on 0330 134 6430 or contact us by email.