A recent BBC News investigation has found that looked-after teenagers over the age of 16 are at risk of exploitation and abuse whilst residing in unregulated homes across England and Wales. Such accommodation avoids inspection and regulation due to its provision of ‘support’ opposed to ‘care’, despite the vulnerabilities of these young people.

According to figures from the Department for Education, approximately 5,500 looked after children in England reside in unregulated accommodation, a 70% increase in the past 10 years. This increase is attributable to the rise of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), in which children are exposed to domestic violence, neglect, abuse, drug and alcohol addiction and untreated mental illness.

The NSPCC suggests that these vulnerable young people are “exposed to serious dangers” as a result of this lack of regulation.

The recent BBC news article highlights particular cases at Centurion Care. One incident involves a resident who was not provided with sufficient care following incidents of self-harm, and another involves resident who absconded for a week despite being seen getting into a car with a large group of males.

Flintshire has been highlighted as one of the problematic locations where exploitation of such vulnerable young people is occurring. Social Services chief officer, Neil Ayling, has described the county as a target for ‘county lines’ drug networks.

One of the principal issues that has recently been highlighted is the fact that vulnerable young people are placed in towns away from where they were brought up. The Association of Directors of Children’s Services has described how there is a ‘national shortage’ of foster carers, and is one of the reasons for relocation. This has led to some of the children feeling punished for being a victim. Such relocation also causes them to feel isolated from any support network they may have had, consequently causing them to be ‘easy victims for predators’, as described by Ann Coffey MP following the report conducted by the All Party Parliamentary Group for Runaway and Missing Children and Adults. The report also found that local authorities are unwittingly helping the establishment of new ‘county lines’ operations by relocating and isolating young people.

The Department for Education in England has described how local authorities have a legal duty to ensure there is suitable accommodation for these children. Local authorities are in breach of duty in allowing the existence of these unregulated care homes that enable young people to be exposed to exploitation.

On Thursday, the government announced £30 million funding to equip law enforcement with pioneering new technologies that are able to identify paedophiles operating online and safeguard children who have been abused.

At Ramsdens Solicitors, we represent vulnerable parties who are and have been in the care system where failings have arisen. We work closely to ensure those without a voice are supported. For a confidential discussion please contact Natalie Marrison, Head of the Abuse department on 0800 8047450, email or fill in our online enquiry form, for a free and confidential discussion.