Plan to set standards for unregulated housing for care leavers aged 16 and 17

All unregulated accommodation for 16 and 17-year-olds who are leaving care will have to meet a national standard under new proposals.

The aim, included in a Government consultation launched on Monday, is to boost the quality of accommodation and ensure consistency of provision across the country.

Details of the consultation came as the Department for Education (DfE) announced a £51 million funding package for councils in England to support care leavers.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “Every young person in care deserves to live in accommodation that meets their needs and keeps them safe – anything less is unacceptable, and so continuing to prioritise children in care or leaving care is absolutely vital.”

He has previously said it will be illegal to put children under 16 in unregulated accommodation from September.

The consultation on national standards, which runs to July 19, will consider the views of children in care, care leavers, councils, experts and leaders in the sector in an effort to raise the bar for unregulated provision.

These are independent or semi-independent settings offering supported accommodation which are not inspected by Ofsted.

The consultation will seek views on how the watchdog should regulate the quality of support and accommodation for 16 and 17-year-olds and to intervene where necessary.

The support package is to fund a range of schemes including £33 million of continued investment in the Staying Put scheme, which helps looked-after children who want to stay with their foster carers after their 18th birthday.

There is £3.6 million to extend the Staying Close pilot, which gives extra support for young people leaving residential care, and £12 million for councils to continue to provide personal advisers to support care leavers up to the age of 25.

There is also £2.7 million for intensive support for care leavers at high risk of homelessness.

Mr Williamson said the aim is to help the most vulnerable “by providing safer homes, reducing isolation among young people leaving care, and by making sure they have a strong support network to rely on as they take steps into adult life”.

The DfE is also set to provide over 5,000 more laptops for care leavers through the Get Help with Technology scheme, to help prevent loneliness and isolation.