Following a review of children’s social care published in 2022, Ofsted now requires providers of supported accommodation for 16 and 17 year olds to apply for registration. How have we have arrived at a requirement for registration and regulation?
What is Supported Living?
Supported living refers to provisions or schemes that provide accommodation for children leaving care, normally aged 16 to 17. These services normally aim to help young people grow and develop their skills, with a view to them leaving the care system at 18 years old and living independently.
Previous regulatory landscape
Until April 2023, organisations providing supported living for 16 and 17 year olds were not required to register with Ofsted, which regulates children’s education and social care services. A distinction existed between organisations providing care, and those providing accommodation. Any service that was providing care was required to register with Ofsted as a children’s home, while accommodation services fell outside of the scope of registration.
What Ofsted considered to constitute ‘care’ or ‘supported accommodation’ was not always clear, however. Despite this, Ofsted would send letters to providers of accommodation services that they believed were also providing care, informing them that they believed them to be committing a criminal offence, and inviting them to either register as a children’s home or to cease operating. It also pursued, or considered pursuing, prosecutions against service providers who continued to offer those services without registration.
The ambiguity of the landscape left organisations open to challenge from, or prosecution by Ofsted, as well as impacting Ofsted’s own resources.
Independent Review of Children’s Social Care
In January 2021, it was announced that a review would be conducted, looking at how the children’s social care system could be improved. The review was chaired by Josh McAlister and was published in 2022.
The report provided extensive recommendations for reform of the whole of children’s social care. A main focus area was unregulated provisions, including supported living providers. The report highlighted that 5,860 children spent time in unregulated accommodation away from their home area in 2018/2019, which is 128% more than six years ago.
In 2021, the government had already implemented a ban on unregistered provision for those aged 16 and under. The report made the uncontroversial recommendation that the government should go further and introduce regulation for supported living providers accommodating those aged 16 to 17. It also advised the government to introduce a new set of care standards.
Our detailed article on the outcome of the review can be found here.
The government accepted the recommendation to regulate supported living providers for those aged 16 to 17. From April 2023, those providing this type of provision were expected to begin making applications for registration with Ofsted, to be completed by 28th October 2023. If a provider offers supported accommodation on or after this date without registration, it will be committing a criminal offence under the new legislation. This change brings supported living providers in line with the range of children’s social care services already regulated by Ofsted, including children’s homes and family residential centres.
In addition, the government has also introduced the recommended care standards, against which supported living providers will be assessed for registration and subsequently on inspection.