Minister considering ways to combat ‘rogue element’ in homes for teenagers

Claims that children are being put at risk in unregulated accommodation have prompted Children’s Minister Nadhim Zahawi to say he is considering how the sector can be improved.

The minister said he wanted to eliminate a “rogue element” in some supported and semi-supported accommodation for 16 and 17-year-olds, but stopped short of calling for full regulation of these homes.

Standard children’s homes are regulated by Ofsted.

“There are a number of homes where 16 (and) 17-year-olds who are either coming in to care, they don’t want to be in a children’s care home, they want that semi-independent living,” Mr Zahawi told BBC’s Newsnight.

“The providers run them really well. But what we have is a rogue element here.

“So what I’ve done is I’ve directed my officials to work with the officials from the ministry of housing and local government to look at licensing and registry of these homes.”

Newsnight reported that about 5,000 looked-after children in England are in so-called 16+ supported or semi-supported accommodation, according to figures from the Department for Education.

The programme also said that the number of teenagers sent to unregulated care homes outside their home borough had doubled since 2014, with data indicating a further rise in 2019.

Teenagers
The number of teenagers sent to unregulated care homes outside their home borough has doubled since 2014 (Ben Birchall/PA)

Police have raised concerns that many missing persons cases involve teenagers from unregulated homes.

DCI Steve Ashdown, from Bedfordshire Police, told the programme that a “lack of scrutiny” of these homes was exposing “a significant amount of children” to risk.

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