The Foyer Federation welcomes the opportunity to respond to the Department for Education’s consultation on regulating standards in supported accommodation for care leavers and looked after children (16-17 years of age).
The Foyer Federation is a development charity that exists to inspire young people who can't live at home to realise their power and purpose. We bring together a network of youth supported housing projects so that young people have access to the best opportunities and move on positively in their lives. These projects offer quality housing, holistic support and varied learning that develop young people's strengths and skills.
We responded to the consultation, and our submission was shaped by discussions with our members.
It is encouraging to note that the core focus of the new regulations is providing consistent, quality, safe accommodation that empowers young people, promotes personal development and builds positive self-esteem. These are all central elements of the Foyer offer, and we know from our experience of accrediting supported housing services that they are fundamental to providing young people a stable foundation to build on.
The emphasis on written agreements and meaningful support plans is also important for ensuring that young people have the resources and support they need to have be in control of their own lives and futures.
There is a strong Advantaged Thinking approach woven throughout the proposed regulations. We see this especially in the expectation of a culture of high aspiration for young people, and also in setting specific standards for providing Wi-Fi access and a clear offer (or ‘deal’) for young people entering the service. The focus on safety, wellbeing and support is well balanced with young people’s rights, learning and progression. A particular highlight is the importance of youth voice, power and involvement in shaping the services themselves – something our members continually work to centre in their Foyers.
The Foyer Federation, including our members, aligns well with these new standards’ focus on safety, quality, youth empowerment and positive self-esteem.
However, it is important that the spirit of the standards remains the focus of this work. There is a risk that bureaucracy and institutionalisation may take precedence over a genuine sense of agency, purpose and belonging for young people who can’t live at home. Following from that, the bigger strategic question is how to ensure greater stability and consistency in the face of ongoing challenges such as short-term contracting, difficulty recruiting quality staff, underfunding of crucial services and fragmented local provision.
Through consultations with our nationwide network of members, we were very concerned to hear that some providers of high-quality accommodation were being forced to consider ending their support to 16-17-year-olds due to the additional financial and administrative burden of meeting the new regulations. This could lead to a shortage of suitable housing options for these young people in their local area, which in turn could have a negative impact on their development and well-being.
Therefore, we believe it will be crucial for the success of the new regulations to consider additional funding and resources to help providers meet these new standards, while also addressing the issues of underfunding and staff shortages that have been a longstanding problem in the sector.
Additionally, it will be necessary to address the fragmentation in local provision and to work towards a more cohesive and coordinated system. This could be achieved by providing more training and resources to local authorities, providers and other organisations working with young people, and by fostering partnerships and collaborations between different stakeholders to ensure that the regulations are clear and achieving their intentions.
Overall, the new regulations for supported accommodation for care leavers and looked after children (16-17 years) are a step in the right direction in ensuring that young people have the support and resources they need to feel safe, empowered and connected as they transition to adulthood. However, it will be important to address the ongoing challenges of short-term contracting, staff shortages and fragmentation in local provision in order to ensure that these new standards can be met in practice.