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BASW England response to report that thousands of vulnerable children have been sent to unregulated care homes during the pandemic

Children in care and care leavers are at a far greater risk of abuse or exploitation when living in unregulated or ’supported’ accommodation

Yesterday (Wed 6 January) an investigation by The Guardian, based on data from 114 councils, revealed that thousands of the most vulnerable children in the country have been sent to unregulated or ‘supported’ accommodation during the pandemic.

These latest figures reflect a growing crisis for many of our most vulnerable children and young people.

Children in care and care leavers are at a far greater risk of abuse or exploitation when living in unregulated or ’supported’ accommodation.

BASW England echoes calls by the Children’s Commissioner for the government to ban under-18s in care from being placed in unregulated or ‘supported’ accommodation, and for the government to stick to its manifesto promise of an independent review into children’s social care.

However, BASW England recognises that immediately banning unregulated care homes, despite the harms and risks associated with them, would lead to a short-term lack of placements for children and young people leaving care settings and in turn may cause further crisis and trauma in their lives.

There needs to be significant, long-term investment in children and young people across the country - with support services for vulnerable children and care leavers requiring urgent resources, both during and beyond the pandemic.

Indeed, the lack of investment over the last decade due to austerity policies, implemented by successive governments, is causing significant damage to not only the life chances of vulnerable children and young people but also their safety. BASW has been active and consistent in campaigning against austerity policies since they were introduced.

BASW England is also concerned about the mental health effects of sending children to unregulated accommodation. In a study by Coram Voice, nearly a third of care leavers reported they did not leave at the right time for them. Moreover, 1 in 4 care leavers have experienced a mental health crisis according to Barnardo’s.

BASW England Professional Officer Rebekah Pierre, who has lived experience of the care system and ‘supported’ accommodation, has blogged about how leaving care prematurely – for example, to be moved into ‘supported’ accommodation – can be devastating to a young person’s mental health.

If you are a social worker who shares our concerns over this growing crisis, please do get in touch with the BASW England Children and Families Group