On 8th March 2021 the Bishop of Worcester asked a question he had tabled of Government on teenagers and older children in care.
The Lord Bishop of Worcester: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the quality of provision for teenagers in the care system.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Department for International Trade
(Baroness Berridge) (Con): My Lords, throughout the Covid-19 crisis, the Government have worked closely with local authorities to help ensure that they continue to meet their duties to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and young people in care, with particular regard to their education, health and well-being. Some £4.6 billion of funding has been made available to support councils, with a further £1.55 billion announced as part of the spending review.
The Lord Bishop of Worcester: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for her Answer and for the good work that has been done. However, I am concerned that Barnardo’s declared a state of emergency in June last year as a result of a 44% increase in the number of children needing foster care referred to it. According to one investigation, more than 8,300 children were placed in unregulated, semi-independent accommodation last year. Many of those—more than one-third—were outside their local authority area. What steps are the Government taking to ensure that teenagers and older children in care are offered family-based provision, where they are more likely to thrive?
Baroness Berridge (Con): My Lords, the Government have announced that the use of unregulated accommodation for under-16s will be banned as of September this year. However, there are examples of those aged 16 and over for whom a semi-supported or independent living arrangement is the best placement. Local authorities make individual decisions but, for instance, many unaccompanied asylum-seeking children who come to this country at age 16 may state a preference—which is taken into account—to be in semi-supported or independent accommodation.