Care Leavers Week – the right regulation is needed

Published: 27th October 2021
Lynn Gradwell, Director of Young People and Care Leaver Services, shares her views on the role of regulation and how we can best support young people

It’s Care Leavers Week this week (25 to 31 October) and the theme this year is, #WhatLeavingCareShouldBe. At Look Ahead, we work with over 100 care leavers every year and we asked some of them what they think leaving care should be like, and how this compares to their own experiences.

The young people we spoke to were open, honest, and willing to share their views in the hope that they would have some influence. We’ve heard things like ‘don’t treat us like a number’, ‘help us to transition to independence’, and ‘we need more support’.

There is currently some discussion in the sector around the use of ‘unregulated’ vs ‘regulated’ placements for care leavers aged 16 to 17.

Here at Look Ahead along with other organisations, we don’t believe these terms are particularly helpful, and here’s why.


Regulation isn’t everything

And regulation often means some providers will provide the bear minimum to meet regulation.  When funding is really tight the real losers are the young people themselves.

There is also the debate to be had about the high profits that some private providers are making at the expense of support to the young people by quoting low prices but not providing the standard of safe accommodation or care and support needed.

So the question is, how do we ensure and measure quality we should expect and outcomes that young people are achieving; and move away from accepting substandard accommodation that ‘will do’?

A formal regulation framework will not cover everything that is needed when looking at the support needs of young people and the danger is that providers may only focus what is in the regulatory framework rather than #WhatLeavingCareShouldBe.


The right regulation is key

On the flip side, having the right regulation will definitely be a useful tool for securing some minimum standards, for example around health and safety as we know anecdotally from our young people that a number of semi-independent provisions don’t even have basic health and safety protocols in place such as fire alarms or fire doors.

What is really important is that the regulation debate doesn’t overshadow the real debate which should be focussed on quality and safeguarding for these young people in transition to adulthood.

Currently there is children’s and vulnerable adults safeguarding, but there is no transitionary approach for young people aged 16-25 but in particular 18-25 with additional vulnerabilities.

Whatever regulation is put in place it needs to ensure that if any organisation provides housing, care and support to vulnerable children and young people – it’s their responsibility to provide them with a safe place to stay with and support them as they transition into adulthood.


Regulation alone is not enough

In essence there is a role for regulation but on its own it’s not enough. Here at Look Ahead, we describe our services for care leavers as ‘supported housing’ or ‘semi independent living’ and have done for the last 20 years.

Our services for young people and care leavers inspected by a wide range of commissioners and our internal quality audit process is of a high standard, matching CQC guidance.  We are not regulated by OfSTED as we do not provide care.

We believe #WhatLeavingCareShouldBe ensuring young people have access to the right placement, with the right support for them– enabling them to thrive.