Care homes for teens need to improve

Local homes for teenagers in care urgently need to “drive up standards” amid growing concerns about safety and anti-social behaviour.

At a Redbridge Council meeting on October 17, Cllr Gurdial Bhamra told the rest of the committee he receives “a lot of complaints” about such homes, adding: “These are money-making enterprises, they’re not providing a service.”

Redbridge Council houses a little over 30 local young people itself but estimates that “around 600” 16 and 17-year-olds are housed in Redbridge by other boroughs due to the area being more affordable.

At the people scrutiny committee meeting, corporate director of people Adrian Loades said changes to national legislation in April next year will force such homes to register with and be inspected by Ofsted, meaning the council will be able to flag homes to the inspector when it spots safety concerns.

John Anthony, operational director of children and families, told the committee there is currently a “gap” in good quality accommodation, where young people are kept safe and given therapeutic interventions.

He added: “There’s also a gap in terms of providers’ ability to manage high levels of risk in safeguarding, and also in the training of their workforce.

“Some are on minimum wage and might not always have the induction process that we would want, as well as the ability to reach out to their neighbourhood.

“Not every provider has taken on that civic responsibility to engage with their neighbours, we hope that with registration it will put more onus on the neighbours to take on their civic responsibility.”

A report prepared for the committee notes that supported accommodation can come in different “shapes and sizes” including group living, lodgings in private homes, larger hostels or single-occupancy flats.

The government will also now swap the term ‘unregulated accommodation’ for ‘supported accommodation’.

The report adds: “The issue that the government, in consultation with the sector, has been seeking to address is the growth in these settings without proper local scrutiny and accountability.

“The growth in this type of accommodation in the past has caused problems for local communities and members given the unregulated nature of the provision.

“The lack of regulatory oversight of this provision has often been contrasted with the role that Ofsted have in regulating children’s homes and the Care Quality Commission has in regulating provision for adults.

“Whilst there is much good quality supported accommodation, there has always been the concern that the growth in supported accommodation was in the least partly because it was unregulated.”

Josh Mellor

Local Democracy Reporter