At present, supported accommodation for young people (aged 16+) is unregulated with no legal minimum standard currently in place. However, this is due to change, with new regulations due to come into force in 2023. We explain what this means for providers, and how this may impact on the tendering process.
Following a 2021 consultation that overwhelmingly found a desire for regulation for supported accommodation for looked after children and care leavers, new mandatory national standards will be implemented in 2023. Against a background of inconsistency and reports of providers making a ‘fast profit’ by housing these vulnerable people with limited support to facilitate their safety and development, the standards are broadly welcomed by the sector – although with some scepticism over when, how and to what extent they will result in positive change.
The number of young people placed in unregulated settings has almost doubled over the last decade meaning local authorities have come under increased pressure to safely place these young people in supported settings. As ‘corporate parents’ to children for whom they are responsible, local authorities have a duty to ensure they are housed, supported and safe. However, with no legal minimum standards to comply with, providers could tend to house these children in exchange for generous weekly payments, with no compulsion to effectively support them, resulting in over 80% of homes being run by private companies with no standardisation. Campaigning by the National Youth Advocacy Service and others has been calling for regulation to ensure that these vulnerable young people are safe and supported.
In response to the sector consultation, the Department of Education is implementing national standards for accommodation housing for 16- to 17-year-olds. Whilst the standards are still being developed, this will ultimately mean all accommodation providers for children up to age 18 will be regulated by Ofsted.
What this means for providers
Providers intending to bid for these services should be mindful of the upcoming changes and start making preparations:
- Providers will need to be registered with Ofsted, using the SC1 application form
- Ofsted provide guidance on ‘fitness’ of a provider to be registered – providers may benefit from assessing themselves against these, and identifying any areas in which they will need to change or improve.
- The provider organisation must appoint a responsible individual, whose suitability will also be assessed (via the SC2 form) – if there is not someone suitable internally, providers may consider recruiting or training someone to ensure readiness.
- Ofsted will visit the premises as part of the registration process and subsequent inspections – is the property safe, in good condition and compliant with relevant regulations?
What this means for tendering
We anticipate that the new standards will be reflected in tenders for supported accommodation services. For example, quality questions in the coming months may focus on what providers are doing in preparation to be Ofsted registered by 2023, and their process for embedding the above processes such as appointing a named individual.
Following the adoption of these national standards, selection questionnaires and pre-qualification questionnaires will also require Ofsted registrations to be evidenced, along with ratings (as a mandatory requirement). Narrative questions may also be framed to adopt Ofsted standards, focussing on how quality processes are embedded, and benchmarked service levels are maintained.
At Executive Compass, we are monitoring updates regarding these national standards so that our services remain highly informed and supportive of clients’ requirements.
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