More than 100 Essex children living in unregulated care homes

More than 100 young people are living in unregulated care homes after being placed by Essex County Council (ECC), it has been revealed.

Cllr Louise McKinlay, Cabinet Member for Children and Families, was asked at a full council meeting on Tuesday whether the council has children in its care living in unregulated homes.

This follows a BBC investigation into children being cared for by the unregulated Centurion Care.

Unregulated provision is allowed in law. This is when children (usually over the age of 16) need support to live independently rather than needing full-time care.

Ofsted does not regulate this type of provision.

Unregistered provision is when a child who is being provided with some form of ‘care’ is living somewhere that is not registered with Ofsted. This is illegal.

Altogether 110 young people are living in unregulated care homes after being placed by the county council.

However, children and young people living in homes in Essex and London run by an unregulated company Centurion Care, which has come under criticism for the way it operated, were not placed by the council.

The council did have one young person transferred from Thurrock who was already in a placement with Centurion prior to transfer of his care to Essex.

He was moved from the placement in August 2017 due to concerns about his care with this provider.

Essex County Council has previously been told that some young people being placed in unregulated accommodation cannot be adequately protected from drugs gangs running county lines.

In addition, it has now been revealed by an Ofsted investigation that two children were placed by the council into an illegally unregistered home in Lincolnshire – Freiston Hall Childrens Home – although they were removed as soon as the council was informed.

A council spokesperson said: “Essex County Council placed two children at Freiston Hall Children’s Home. When we initially visited the children’s home we were told there was education on site, which was operating as a school.

“In November 2017 when completing the checks ready for placement we were told by Freiston Hall they were in the process of registering the school for DfE and Ofsted.

“At the time of the first child’s placement (January 2018) Essex was aware that the education provision was unregistered. However, we were assured by the provider that registration was imminent, and faced with a very challenging placement situation, a decision was made to proceed.

“We were then subsequently wrongly advised by the provider that the provision had been successful in registration and inspected.

“In July 2018 we were notified by Ofsted that the school was in fact operating as an unregistered school and we instantly made plans to move them.”

Earlier in the year Tanya Gillett, head of the youth offending service in Essex, said young people being placed in unregulated accommodation in Essex from London boroughs could not be adequately protected from drugs gangs running county lines in the county.

Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter