Campaign to ban unregulated accommodation for all children ramps up

Joe Lepper
Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Parents and politicians have rallied behind a campaign to ban unregulated accommodation for 16- and 17-year-olds.

Most parents say they would support their children past the age of 16. Picture: Adobe Stock
Most parents say they would support their children past the age of 16. Picture: Adobe Stock

The government has pledged to ban such provision for under-16s, but ministers have ruled out halting their use for 16- and 17-year-olds.

The #KeepCaringTo18 coalition of campaigners, which includes charities Article 39, Together Trust, Become and Just for Kids Law, is warning that young people in unregulated accommodation are only entitled to support, not care, and often only receive “few hours of adult support a week”. 

Children’s campaigners have already threatened the Department for Education with legal action unless the age limit is extended, and this week they are claiming broad support from parents for ensuring young people are supported until they are 18.

According to the survey of more than 1,000 parents, just under nine in of ten (88 per cent) would expect all 16-and 17-year-olds to be helped to prepare for university.

A similar proportion (83 per cent) would check where children of this age were at night.

In addition, 87 per cent would expect rules or agreements about behaviour to be in place and 90 per cent would help children aged 16-17 with disappointment and setbacks.

Almost two thirds (64 per cent) would expect young people to only take full responsibility for themselves from the ages of 18 to 25.

“Families don’t expect children to fend for themselves from their sixteenth birthday, and neither should the care system,” said Article 39 director Carolyn Willow.

“If government ministers wouldn’t be happy for their own children to be going without adult care from the age of 16, when they are still completing compulsory education, then why is this acceptable for children in care?”

She added that the survey results show that “England’s care system is already out of kilter with the views and expectations of parents, and that’s even before the government’s recent decision to only guarantee adult care to children in care who are aged 15 and younger".

“The vast majority of parents taking part in this research said they would expect parents to provide 16- and 17-year-olds with emotional support, supervision and to show appreciation and love, including through family holidays and regular time together.

"Eighteen was the age most commonly chosen as being the time when parents expect to start discussing independence with their child," Willow said.

Together Trust service director Jill Sheldrake added that care until 18 “not only protects young people but equips them with the skills and confidence to develop happy and healthy adult lives”.

One young person with experience of care the campaign group spoke to said: “I faced pressure to move into semi-independent accommodation when I was coming up to my seventeenth birthday. This was in the middle of the pandemic, at a time when I didn’t have a support network.

“We’re taken off our parents and we’re supposed to be cared for, but it feels like they’re avoiding that responsibility when they try to put us in unregulated accommodation.

“It’s like they think we can just fend for ourselves and it’s not right. Moving into a flat on your own at 16 or 17 when you don’t know anything about living on your own can be really hard. Especially if you don’t have anyone you can turn to or help.”

Banning unregulated accommodation for all children in care, including 16- and -17-year- olds, has been backed by Labour Party heavyweights including shadow minister for children and early years Tulip Siddiq and peer Lord Watson.

Siddiq MP: “The government still hasn’t realised that most looked after children in unregulated accommodation are over 15.

“Their proposed solution is yet another sticking plaster that won’t address the problem.”

The Department for Education has been contacted for comment.

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