As of 28 October 2023, providers in England wishing to provide supported accommodation for looked-after children and care leavers aged 16 and 17 years of age (“Care Leavers”) are required to register with Ofsted and become subject to inspection, and regulation, in connection with Ofsted’s new quality standards. As Ofsted registration is a new requirement for providers of supported accommodation to Care Leavers, this article provides an overview of these new requirements for those considering becoming Ofsted registered.
The Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2021 prevented looked after children under the age of 16 from being placed in unregulated semi-independent or independent settings provided in accordance with other arrangements. As of 2023, the Government has mirrored this approach and introduced The Supported Accommodation (England) Regulations 2023 (“Regulations”) preventing Local Authorities from placing Care Leavers in unregulated supported accommodation.
As providers will be aware, Local Authorities are statutorily responsible for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children within their care, including Care Leavers and quality assurance of the supported accommodation setting is long overdue. Children in care, in general, are amongst the most vulnerable members of society and regulation will ensure the supported accommodation setting is a ‘safe place where children are protected from harm and where their individual needs are met’.
Impact Of Registration
As of 28 April 2023, Ofsted began registering providers already providing supported accommodation to Care Leavers and Ofsted registration became mandatory as of 28 October 2023. Therefore, any new providers wishing to provide supported accommodation to Care Leavers under sections 22C(6)(d) (an ‘other arrangements’ placement) or 23B(8)(b) (‘suitable accommodation’) of the Children Act 1989 will need to:
- Complete the SC1 form – ‘Apply to register a children’s social care service’. This form provides Ofsted with information regarding the provider and the service.
- Complete the SC2 form – ‘Connect to a children’s social care service’. This form provides Ofsted with information regarding the individuals with specific responsibilities within the service. Of note, a SC2 form will need to be completed for each person with a role of responsibility.
- Pay the associated registration fees – There is one fee for registering the service and another for registering the service manager. Further information regarding fees are detailed on the Government’s website.
When applying to register with Ofsted, a provider will also need to confirm which category(s) of supported accommodation they wish to offer e.g. Single occupancy, ring-fenced shared accommodation, shared accommodation (non-ring fenced) or accommodation in a private residence, such as supported lodgings.
Registering with Ofsted can be a daunting prospect and legal advice can provide new providers with certainty and quality assurance. In particular, Ridouts can assist new providers with their Ofsted registration by:
- Guiding them through the application process;
- Reviewing their Statement of Purpose;
- Considering any additional guidance the regulator might require them to rely upon when applying for registration;
- Assisting with the registration of their manager;
- Making sure that all relevant applicants have applied for the relevant enhanced DBS checks;
- Reviewing the completed application before submission;
- Advising in the event of Ofsted refusing to register a service.
Who Does Not Need To Be Registered?
Ofsted registration is not, however, required if the supported accommodation provider is a:
- Care Home
- Institution in the further education sector
- 16-19 academy
- Residential family centre
- School providing accommodation
- Holiday scheme for disabled children
What Happens Post-Registration?
Once registered, a provider will need to adhere to the conditions of their registration, remain compliant with the relevant regulations (see below), report serious incidents and specified changes to Ofsted, and from 2024 onwards pay a yearly fee to maintain their registration.
In return, Ofsted will conduct inspections at least every three years and provide a grading as of April 2024. Between April 2023 and April 2024, Ofsted may conduct monitoring visits of registered providers if serious concerns are raised with them.
What Are The New Quality Standards?
Quality Standards are included within the Regulations and establish the outcomes providers must meet to become Ofsted compliant. The main Quality Standards are as follows:
- Regulation 4 (‘Leadership and management standard’) – “The registered person enables, inspires and leads a culture in relation to the supported accommodation undertaking that puts children first and prioritises their wellbeing and development”. In brief, this standard sets out the requirement for providers to hire sufficient and suitably qualified staff, facilitate cohesive teamworking, ensure safe recruitment practices, and to hold a business continuity plan amongst others.
- Regulation 5 (‘Protection standard’) – “Children are enabled to feel safe and that their needs are met.” This standard, in brief, sets out the requirement for providers to keep Care Leavers safe and meet their needs, to work collaboratively with local authorities and children agencies, and to have effective child protection policies in place amongst others.
- Regulation 6 (‘Accommodation standard’) – “Children experience a comfortable and secure living environment.” This standard sets out the requirement for providers to ensure the suitability of the accommodation’s location with reference to accessible education and healthcare, provide safe, secure and well-maintained accommodation, and to ensure compliance with health and safety requirements amongst others.
- Regulation 7 (‘Support standard’) – “Children receive individual and tailored support that meets their needs.” This standard, in brief, requires a provider to ensure Care Leavers take a lead role in the support they receive, cooperate with the child’s accommodating authority and provide Care Leavers with a written guide detailing the support and services available amongst other.
Whilst Ofsted registration, and regulation will take some time for existing and new supported accommodation providers to become accustom to, it will quality assure the accommodation setting for Care Leavers and ensure that their wellbeing and safety remains paramount. This article has, hopefully, proved to providers that Ofsted registration is not too cumbersome and that legal advice is only one step away where required.
If you are contemplating offering supported accommodation and require legal advice in connection with registering with Ofsted, or are already Ofsted registered and would like advice, please do not hesitate to give Ridouts Professional Services a call on 0207 317 0340 or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.