Agenda item

Unregistered Arrangements


Councillor Laing (Cabinet Member for Children’s Social Care, Culture, Events and Communications) introduced the report to the Committee and highlighted the following key points:



Unregistered placements were used as a last resort by the Council in circumstances where it had not been able to find registered Ofsted provision often due to short notice of placements ending or due to a complex situation on a young persons entry into care;



The service over eight months had made significant progress and would continue to reduce the council’s use of unregistered arrangements and drive a culture shift to avoid them. The council would work to find the right placement within acceptable timeframes for those that were already in those arrangements;


Karen Blake (Head of Service for Permanence and Fostering) presented the report to the Committee and highlighted the following key points:



Unregistered placements had never been appropriate or acceptable to the council for its children and young people in care;



The law had changed in September 2021 in which the care planning placement and case review regulations were amended to prohibit the placement of a child under 16 in such arrangements;



For a small number of cared for children, often with the most complex needs, there had been times where, on the day a placement could not be sought and in those circumstances the service had to set up an arrangement to keep them safe and have their needs met whilst the right placement was actively sought;



The impact on children/young people in unregistered arrangements were significant and the arrangements that they were being placed in were not regulated by Ofsted and would not provide reassurance that Plymouth’s most vulnerable children were in high quality, safe and stable homes;



The Council had very tight robust guidance around the setting up of those arrangements and would have leadership management grip on them;



Unregistered arrangements were financially high cost arrangements as to ensure safety, there were higher staffing ratio’s than would necessarily be required in a registered home;



From 1 June 2022 to 31 May 2023, the Council used unregistered arrangements for 19 cared for children during that time period but individually, were not in those arrangements during that timespan. The youngest cared for child was 11 and the oldest was 17;



The service hit a peak of 14 children/young people in an unregistered arrangement in August 2022 and in June 2023, this had reduced to two young people;



Key themes identified for the council using unregistered arrangements were:

·         Previous placement breakdowns

·         Mental health difficulties particularly around self-harm and suicidal ideation and young people that had required hospital admission

·         Physical aggression towards parents and carers

·         Harmful sexual behaviour 

·         Children missing out on education

·         Children that had been adopted or been under Special Guardianship arrangements



The service had worked hard with partners across the city in Health, Education and placement providers to prevent these types of arrangements from occurring or to limit the time spent for Plymouths children/young people in those arrangements;



Following conversations with placement providers in the city it had led to an increase in placement sufficiency for the city and prevented children/young people having to move outside of the city boundaries;


In response to questions raised it was reported that:



A new provision would be available in summer 2023 through Plymouth’s main children’s home provider and they would be opening a two bedded crisis home on the outskirts of Plymouth that would offer high end therapeutic support which would provide more options for Plymouth’s children should situations of crisis occur;



The council would be opening its Care Experienced Hub, a new model for Plymouth that would see four training flats on the ground floor for 16/17 years olds who were in care and it would have further flats for 18+ care experienced young people. The new Hub would allow young people to move into independence when it was right for them;



The council were procuring a robust quality assurance framework around providers of unregistered arrangements. Whilst it was acknowledged that the council did not want to use those arrangements, whilst it was using them it wanted to be as rigorous and robust as it could be in terms of which providers it used and what the expectations were;



The council were being approached almost daily by providers trying to sell unregistered arrangement services. Through the procurement which was in progress, the council would want to turn most of them down and only have those that provide the best service available;



Ofsted registration of children’s homes was a robust process and it was estimated to cost between £500,000 and £1 million to set up a new home due to the requirement of having a full staff team in place with a registered manager as part of the Ofsted inspection and registration process. This had meant that some of providers were not seeking Ofsted registration and due to the national market, the arrangements were still in demand.



A protocol was in place for all children in unregistered arrangements to provide assurance with regards to the arrangement.


The Committee agreed to note the report.