All under-18s need care - and quality standards must reflect that

Jonathan Stanley
Friday, March 13, 2020

It is important that there is sustained focus that the core issue is ‘care’ as determined by care-experienced people and child-centred theory and practice.

We want our children to have the best possible care, according to their individual needs, whatever their age. Good quality care, with nationally agreed care standards ensuring consistent professional support in their lives is essential for this vulnerable group of young people.

In this consultation there is a major disagreement over the needs and rights of teenagers. Many care experienced people, children’s organisations and practitioners do not agree with the Department for Education proposal to formalise the absence of care for 16- and 17-year-olds. It is not possible to provide support without care; an absence of care is not support. Under these proposals it is clear that children and young people would lose their right to care.

The DfE proposals legitimate semi-independent and independent settings not being able to provide care and accommodation as they are not registered children’s homes.

There is a different way to approach this.

It is important for the focus to be on regulations and quality standards. These could be adapted so that all 16- and 17-year-olds in residential settings receive care and accommodation. Such adaptations are not a new idea; they already exist for three types of residential accommodation.

The children's minister has confirmed that the DfE proposals are for national minimum standards. Yet children’s homes have moved on from national minimum standards to quality standards. The DfE proposals for national minimum standards are a backward step. They are not equivalent to quality standards.

The DfE focus on the practicalities of regulation is to try to establish a plausibility for the proposals. The reasoning is not child centred but commercial. As Alan Wood told CYP Now recently: "This could mean Ofsted having to look at taking on a whole load of new inspectors as it would leave them overstretched."

There may be good child-centred reasons to require additional funding for Ofsted with more inspectors being the conclusion to the consultation.

If regulation and quality standards are a requirement for some services, then why not all? Why an exception? What does it say, for the young people, the services and regulation, that we contemplate a lesser ambition for some than others?

Keeping caring for children and young people to 18 is proven principle and practice.

Jonathan Stanley is principal partner at NCERCC, which is a member of the Keep Caring for Children up to 18 coalition

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