22nd July, 2021 11:47 am
An acute shortage of secure children’s homes (SCHs) in England is leaving the most vulnerable children at risk of harm, Ofsted has warned.
Yvette Stanley: Too many vulnerable children are being let down. Picture: Ofsted
New data from the inspectorate highlights a scarce supply of secure home placements, with only 13 SCHs operating across the country.
There are no SCHs in London or the West Midlands, yet Yorkshire and Humber region has four, the report states.
Across England there are just 234 places at SCHs and these have been further reduced due to the Covid-19 pandemic as staff have become ill or had to self-isolate.
Since 2002, 16 SCHs have closed, data shows, despite around 25 children a day currently waiting for a placement.
“Given the limited number of SCHs, even when children get a place, they are likely to end up living far away from home,” the report adds, noting that some local authorities are resorting to placing children in Scottish secure units because of the lack of places in England.
“But this is not a long-term option, as the Scottish government has committed to only accept placements from Scottish local authorities,” Ofsted states.
Ofsted’s figures follow successive high court cases where judges have reluctantly approved unregistered placements for children with complex needs, due to a lack of suitable places.
Unregistered placements are not regulated or inspected by Ofsted, so the inspectorate cannot be assured that children are safe or getting good quality care.
The government will ban the use of such settings for children under 16 from September following a public consultation.
Yvette Stanley, Ofsted’s national director for social care, said: “These children are incredibly vulnerable, often at risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting others.
“They absolutely need specialist secure care, yet there are nowhere near enough placements to meet demand. With too many local authorities chasing too few places, we continue to see the use of unregistered provision that isn’t inspected, may not be meeting children’s needs, and at worst, could be leaving them at risk. Too many vulnerable children are being let down.”
Latest Department for Education data shows the number of children in SCHs fell by a quarter in 2020/21.
Source: Children & Young people Now
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