New research: Where's the care?
Together Trust research finds high numbers of children in care of compulsory education age are not in education, employment or training living in unregulated accommodation. This type of accommodation is characterised by the absence of day-to-day care for children, which allows owners and providers to bypass the children’s homes quality standards.
From 9 September the law for children in care has changed for the worse. New secondary legislation introduced by the government has legitimised a two-tier care system only children in care aged 15 and under are legally guaranteed care where they live. This is dangerous and damaging for thousands of children in care aged 16 and 17, who are still of compulsory education and training age.
The Together Trust helps lead the #KeepCaringTo18 national campaign which wants every child in care to receive care where they live. As part of its work on the #KeepCaringTo18 campaign, the Together Trust submitted Freedom of Information Act requests to councils in England. The North West based charity wanted to find out the numbers of children in care aged 16 or 17 living in a non-care setting who were not in education, employment or training (NEET) between 1 January 2019 and 31 December 2020.
Following a change to education law in 2013, children must continue in education, employment or training until the age of 18. But Together Trust’s research reveals that corporate parents are failing to meet this vital duty.
Together Trust found that 67 councils were responsible for 3,253 children aged 16 and 17 who were not in education, employment or training (NEET) for all or some of their time in non-care settings. Six councils had over 100 NEET children of compulsory education age in unregulated accommodation, with some reporting extremely high numbers:
- Kent County Council reported having 460 NEET children, 323 of which were unaccompanied asylum-seeking children
- West Sussex County Council reported 307 NEET children
- The London Borough of Enfield disclosed that they had 260 NEET children
The Together Trust found that the proportion of children living in a non-care setting who were not in education, employment or training was exceptionally high, for example:
- 43% of children in unregulated accommodation were NEET in Solihull
- In Trafford Borough Council, that figure is 57%
- In the London Borough of Greenwich, that figure is 60%
- In Knowsley Borough Council that figure is 90%
Together Trust submitted early findings to the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care, but its Case for Case report backed the government’s plans for the introduction of age-based discriminatory secondary legislation and standards which deliberately omit any requirement to provide care to children aged 16 and 17.
Ali Gunn, Communications and Campaigns Manager for the Together Trust said:
“Our research, along with countless testimonials from care experienced people shows that being placed in a non-care setting has a detrimental impact on young people’s educational outcomes, relationships and personal safety. It is a deeply depressing day today.
"This change in legislation is discriminatory and will cause preventable harms for children in care. All children need care in the home where they live up to at least the age of 18 and we will continue to fight to see that happen.
Carolyne Willow, Article 39’s Director added:
“What the government has done in changing the law to only guarantee care to children in care aged 15 and younger fits the official definition of child neglect. It has deliberately decided to withhold, on the basis of age, a duty on councils to ensure children in care aged 16 and 17 live in places that can meet their needs as children.
"It is remarkable that it’s the same government department in charge of education which has done this to teenagers in care who are in the middle of their GCSE and A-Level studies. Talk of levelling up for these children is devoid of meaning if we cannot have a care system that loves and cherishes children throughout their childhood.”