Hackney Council plans to take on unregulated supported housing sector for vulnerable kids through ‘robust monitoring’

Hackney Town Hall.

Hackney Town Hall. - Credit: Archant

Hackney Council wants social landlords to manage all of its supported housing so it no longer has to place vulnerable children and care leavers in expensive, sub-standard private accommodation.

Lance Scott Walker.

Lance Scott Walker. - Credit: Archant

Town hall chiefs say there is an "overdependence" on the private sector due to a lack of places through its current contract with two providers, which ends in December. The number of places was slashed in 2017 from 147 to 64, and the service can no longer meet a huge increase in demand.

The council therefore wants to sign as many as seven block contracts lasting five years that include a "robust monitoring process".

No supported accommodation is regulated or registered with Ofsted, whether provided by the council, a housing association or private firms, because it is deemed to provide support rather than care.

A report states: "Ensuring consistency in quality and service delivery amongst all semi-independent providers is particularly challenging because, unlike other placements such as foster care and residential children's homes, semi-independent accommodation is not regulated under the Care Standards Act 2000 and as a result is not inspected by Ofsted."

As of the end of March last year there were 149 "looked after" children aged 16 or 17 in Hackney, a 25% increase on the previous year and a 57% rise from 2015.

The number of 16- and 17-year-olds coming into care is also increasing, with most preferring to move to semi-independent living rather than foster care.

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The report adds: "This arrangement will support Hackney to meet its sufficiency duty in line with increases in the numbers of looked after children and care leavers and facilitate the implementation of a robust quality assurance framework to monitor the performance of providers who are operating in an unregulated market."

As reported by our sister paper the Islington Gazette, the fatal stabbing of Holloway teen Lance Scott Walker in 2016 led to calls for the sector to be regulated. The review by the Ealing Safeguarding Adults Board wrote to the government asking for regulation through planning permission and accreditation for providers.

The Department of Health and Social Care never responded to a request for comment, but in the wake of a subsequent investigation by BBC's Newsnight, the government has now announced plans to ban children under 16 from being placed in unregulated homes and is proposing national standards.

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