Historically, supported accommodation (sometimes referred to as independent or semi-independent provisions or unregulated provisions) for a looked after child or a care leaver aged 16 or 17 had no independent oversight.
In December 2021, Ofsted agreed to the government’s request that they regulate supported accommodation, and on 6 April 2023 Ofsted’s powers to regulate came into force and they began accepting registration applications. Whilst there has been a transitional period, registration will become mandatory from 28th October 2023. This means that any supported accommodation provider accommodating a looked after child or care leaver aged 16 or 17 must be registered with Ofsted or they will be committing an offence.
Who should register?
According to regulations, you are a supported accommodation provider if you accommodate a child aged 16 or 17 years old who has been placed by a local authority under section 22C(6)(d) or 23B(8)(b) of the Children Act 1989. Essentially, this means that you need to register as a supported accommodation provider if a local authority has either:
- placed a looked after child in an ‘other arrangements’ placement, or
- placed a care leaver in ‘suitable accommodation’
There are some exceptions to registration. This includes if you are already registered as a care home, a 16 – 19 academy, an institution in the further education sector, a residential family centre, or a holiday scheme for disabled children. If you are a provider and you are unsure as to whether you fall into one of these categories, you should review Ofsted’s guidance or seek legal advice.
Categories of supported accommodation
There are four types of supported accommodation:
- Single occupancy- this accommodation is designed for the sole use of the child placed there.
- Ring-fenced shared accommodation- this accommodation is for looked after children and care leavers only. There may be care leavers over the age of 18 living at the accommodation. Each child will have their own bedroom, but will share communal areas (for example, a kitchen or a living area).
- Shared accommodation (non-ring-fenced)- this accommodation is for looked after children and care leavers who may live with other people who are not care-experienced and aged over 18.
- Accommodation in a private residence, such as supported lodgings - this is accommodation where children live in a private residence by a host.
Any providers intending to register need to be clear on what type of accommodation they provide/wish to provide, as Ofsted need to be informed of this when a service is registered and once registered, a provider cannot offer a different category without making an application to Ofsted to change the conditions of the registration.
Importantly, a supported accommodation provider can apply to be registered for one or more categories of accommodation.
Service vs location- how do you register?
Every supported accommodation service must be registered separately. This means that you do not have to register each premises/address separately, but your overall service does need to be registered. This could be a company, a partnership, or an individual provider.
By way of example, a company could register a service and provide that service at several addresses, or the company may choose to split up the service into smaller services that will be registered separately (for example, each geographical area).
Each registered service must have a nominated individual and a registered service manager (i.e. a manager that is registered with Ofsted). The registered service manager will have effective oversight of all the addresses where children will be living, and will be responsible for the running of the service and accountable for all elements of service delivery.
The registration process
The full registration process is detailed on Ofsted’s website, however in summary this consists of three stages:
- Applicants submit forms and any required documents
- Ofsted carry out local authority and professional checks
- Ofsted visit the provider and interview people in certain roles of responsibility
Following the above stages, Ofsted will either grant registration, or they will issue a notice of proposal to refuse registration or impose conditions.
Refusal of registration or imposition of conditions
If Ofsted are not satisfied that a provider can meet the regulatory requirements for registration, they will issue a notice of proposal to refuse registration. This will set out the concerns that they have and the reasons for refusal.
If Ofsted disagree with the conditions that a provider has asked for, or if they have decided to propose additional conditions, they will issue a notice of proposal and will send the proposed conditions as part of the notice.
A provider will have the opportunity to ask Ofsted why this step should not be taken, and they will have 28 days from the date that the notice is serviced to make written representations.
Following this stage, Ofsted will either uphold your representations and grant registration, or they will continue with their proposed course of action and issue a notice of decision. If a notice of decision is issued, you will have 28 days to appeal against this to the first-tier tribunal.
It is important to be aware that refusal of certain applications will result in the disqualification provisions taking effect, which can impact upon that applicant’s ability to work within the sector. It is therefore imperative that legal advice is sought at the first opportunity.
How can we help?
Our specialist Ofsted lawyers regularly assist providers in respect of enforcement action taken by Ofsted, including in respect of refusal of registration or criminal prosecution. Please visit our case studies page to find out more about how we’ve helped social care providers with enforcement action and prosecutions.
If you are registering with Ofsted and require support and guidance with this process, or you have found yourself the subject of a criminal investigation, please contact us on 0161 696 6250.or complete our online enquiry form for a confidential discussion with a member of our team.