Three teenagers who have been in care in Bath and North East Somerset are currently in homes that are outside of the scope of regulators.
Commissioning manager Ian Tomlinson said Bath and North East Somerset Council is “ahead of the curve” in monitoring the properties but he is urging Ofsted to deliver proper oversight.
In three current cases – following risk assessments by social workers – he has housed over-16s in unregulated placements out of necessity.
With concerns they place children at risk of exploitation, the Government is considering banning unregulated placements for under-16s.
Asked if the providers should be regulated, Mr Tomlinson told a scrutiny panel meeting on 10th March: “You wouldn’t believe how much I’ve harassed Ofsted about this – why aren’t you regulating these placements?
“The Department for Education could do this now. These are vulnerable children.
“Why aren’t Ofsted knocking on the department’s door to get them regulated?”
Government figures show that more than 6,000 looked-after children and young people in England are living in unregulated accommodation.
These settings provide accommodation and support, but it is illegal for them to provide care.
A report to the scrutiny panel said: “Our aspiration in B&NES Council is that no child will be placed in an unregulated placement. However, at times these placements are a necessity.”
Mr Tomlison said he had spent five hours assessing one unregulated placement to make sure it was suitable.
“B&NES Council is way ahead of the curve regulating these places,” he said. “Some local authorities have 30 to 40 children in these places – they couldn’t do the work we do.
“I have respect for Ofsted but we have to voice our opinion that these children need some oversight from a regulator.”
The Department of Education is currently consulting on a ban on under-16s being placed in unregulated accommodation.
Mark Russell, chief executive at the Children’s Society, said when it launched: “Children are often placed in these settings in an emergency and out of their home area, where they may not get the support they need and can be at particular risk of going missing and being criminally or sexually exploited.
“All accommodation for children in care has to be suitable for their needs and no child should be placed in accommodation where they are not safe.
“It’s vital that quality standards are introduced across the board. This consultation should lead to tangible changes which address these issues and ensure all children get the help they deserve.”
An Ofsted spokesperson said: “We have called for better assurance about the quality of unregulated provision for older children.
“We need a system where children are getting high-quality accommodation and support, with the right level of oversight. We’ll be responding to the Department for Education’s consultation in due course.”
Councillor Kevin Guy, B&NES Council’s cabinet member for children’s services, said: “Of course we would welcome any national policy changes that strengthen and improve placements for our young people to help improve their lives.
“We work to ensure that all children and young people are placed in safe and supportive environments where they are protected from crime and anti-social behaviour.
“All Bath and North East Somerset children in placements receive robust support including risk assessments to make sure the provision is suitable, regular visits and reviews in line with statutory guidance and supervision from managers to hear feedback on the young person’s day to day experience.
“I’d like to meet informally and separately with each of our over-16s who we have provided unregulated placements for and I have made that offer should they wish to do so.”
Stephen Sumner, Local Democracy Reporter