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Council confirms there are children in unregistered care

22 Oct 2022 5 minute read
County Hall on Atlantic Wharf by M J Richardson is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Ted Peskett, local democracy reporter

Cardiff Council has confirmed that they are running children’s homes in the city that have not been registered.

A placement operating without registration is a placement that has not been registered by the Care Inspectorate Wales (CIW). Housing children in placements that are operating without registration is unlawful under the Regulation and Inspection of Social Care Act 2016.

However, Cardiff Council said that these are bespoke arrangements that have been set up to provide 24-hour care and support to children that need to be looked after by the local authority.

The authority added that they are usually short term in nature, often set up in an emergency and are always bespoke for one individual child.

Cardiff Council also said that although some of these placements in the city are defined as ‘unregulated’, they are “extremely safe environments” with wraparound care measures in place.

Cllr Calum Davies raised a question at the Young People Services Scrutiny Committee meeting on October 20 in relation to the issue of children in unregistered placements.

He said: “Do you think there is a role for central government to ban it at all?”

Massive problem

A council officer said: “The legislation is already absolutely clear – we are not allowed to do it. It is only very recently that we have been forced into doing it because we just don’t have placements for children, so we have nothing else to do except setting something up.

“What we are trying to do is increase the number of in-house residential placements that we have got. It obviously takes a long time to design a children’s home, to get the staff in.

“Even registration alone is six months. We have got a massive programme of trying to do that, but that is really a longer-term arrangement.

“We have already developed two, three or four new ones. The situation where we have got children, mostly teenagers, whose parents are just not able to cope with their behaviours and we have to find somewhere very quickly to look after them.

“That is why we have to set up that bespoke arrangement, but it is absolutely not something within the law that you should be doing and we absolutely do not want to be doing it, but like many local authorities we are in that position now and have been for about the last six months.”

Extraordinary pressures

Cardiff Council re-iterated that, like other authorities across the UK, it is facing “extraordinary pressures” in the social services sector following a significant rise in demand since the start of the pandemic.

The demand for places in registered children’s homes across the UK means there is often no space available.

A Cardiff Council spokesperson said: “To counter this problem Cardiff – alongside other councils – has been working with Welsh Government and the Social Services Regulator CIW to come up with a plan which ensures that safe placements are available to those who need them, when they need them.

“We want to be very clear, that though some of these placements are defined as ‘unregistered’ they are in fact extremely safe environments with a raft of wraparound care measures managed to the highest standards.

“They keep children who need care safe while they wait for a space in a registered home.

“Accommodation and 24-hour support is sourced for individual children and is tailored for their specific needs.

“Every aspect is closely monitored by Children’s Services to ensure they operate as close to the regulations as is possible.

“Our priority is to keep children who require care as near to their home as possible so that they can remain close to their school, friends and family, and to the places that they are familiar with.”

Heavily vetted

The spokesperson continued: “Where children are unable to remain living with parents, family or friends, every effort in the first instance is made to source a regulated placement that meets their unique set of needs.

“When this isn’t possible we adopt our plan which sees professional, round-the-clock care, and support delivered by us in short-term accommodation using a high-quality, fully furnished and heavily-vetted accommodation provider.

“In these circumstances any arrangement is only in place temporarily until a regulated placement is identified that can meet the specific needs of the child, and all such arrangements are notified to the social services regulator.

“The needs of these children have always been and continue to be our top priority, we will continue to meet regularly with our regulator to update them on each of the children and to report on progress in relation to identifying regulated settings for them to move on to and our plans to register the properties that are currently operating outside of registration.

“Cardiff Council has also embarked on an ambitious programme of developing its own residential provision to address the national shortfall and has already opened three new homes for children in Cardiff with several more in development.”

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