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Supported Accommodation – Freeports Of Social Care.

Supported Accommodation – Freeports of Social Care.

Freeports provide many exemptions for traders. Freeports – GOV.UK (

Supported accommodation is being described as a form of accommodation outside of regulated children’s homes, kinship care and foster care, which provides supported, semi-independent living for 16- & 17-year-olds who are ready to start living with more independence. This group is clearly remarkable. The last available data (2019) suggests that the average age for leaving home in the UK is 24.6. So for a child in care to be ready to move on approximately 8 years earlier is surprising but perhaps that’s for another blog?

Readers of CYPNow will know the controversy that is surrounding the implementation of Supported Accommodation standards.

Supported Accommodation are the freeports of social care. The idea has potential to be more than about just another form of ‘care’.

Supported Accommodation is the application of behavioural ‘nudge’ economics to children’s social care.

The Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) has conducted qualitative research exploring judgment and decision-making in children’s social care relevant to Supported Accommodation, for example, identifying several behavioural factors that may impact social workers’ ability to make decisions Decision-making in children’s social care ( This was published in 2016. There has been plenty of time for the  maturing of the BI process of target, explore, solution, trial, scale.

It is about creating an environment where an action is seen as OK. This is seen better in another relevant study, Applying behavioural science to promoting uptake of family hubs services ( The barriers or facilitators for a given behaviour depend on knowledge, skills, social/professional role and identity, beliefs about capabilities, optimism, beliefs about consequences, reinforcement, intentions, goals, memory, attention and decision processes, environmental context and resources, social influences, emotions and behavioural regulation.

First create a space in current thinking, then fill it in with new practices.

That much is readily observable in all that has been said and done regarding Supported Accommodation. It is about more.

Critics say freeports don’t help industry at all merely moving activity from one sector to another. That is what has happened and will now gather pace in social care with Supported Accommodation; in taking the unregulated into becoming a low level regulated sector, a new market has been created. This the result of a failure of an extractive and speculative market and intransigence by DfE to introduce a specific schedule of the Children’s Homes Regulations, that would have been quite the most straight forward solution. The result will be that not only those previously outside of regulation will create this new sector/market but also those formerly within it will involuntarily exit.

Freeports and Supported Accommodation are not then about levelling up,  they are about levelling down.

There is the spurious argument about ‘flexibility’, in social care this was always possible using a Schedule of the Regulations.

The real reason for Supported Accommodation is to undermine regulated provision, fostering and residential child care.

That fostering will be affected has not yet risen in to the discussion but think if you raise foster carers incomes for care 1:1 or 1:2, as in government response to the Care Review, and there is the cheaper alternative of Supported Accommodation for support 1: Several, LAs with reducing funding could well be attracted.

Freeports are promoted as bringing innovation. The Government website says ‘This will create new markets for UK products and services and drive productivity improvements’. ,

It is an old management understanding that you can improve quality or cost, but not both at the same time. Unless, of course, you change the parameters of what each means. See Behavioural Insights listings above.

Clearly one of the ambitions of Supported Accommodation is to achieve an increase in ‘productivity’ through less staffing being needed.

This drags social care into the same conflict zone that is currently being experienced elsewhere in the economy. The current strikes are about the cost of living, but also about productivity, reductions in jobs and safety. Supported Accommodation has had the protection of care stripped out and thus can be delivered in a less costly way.  Regulation is going to be crucial. Ofsted are going to be in an invidious position given the vagueness of the distinctions made by DfE in their consultation documents about a continuum of care.

Another invidious situation arises from the potential for all too easy inconsistency in the Draft for consultation – Guide to supported accommodation regulations including Quality Standards (  where it is stated

Where young people of this age have needs that would best be met in a children’s home or foster care placement, that is where they should be placed

Supported accommodation for looked-after children and care leavers caters for older children aged 16 and 17 who have relatively high or increasing levels of independence, who are ready to gain further skills to prepare for adult living, and who do not need the degree of care or type of environment provided in a children’s home or foster care.

Where a young person has complex needs and/or requires a greater level of ongoing care and supervision, we do not expect that supported accommodation would be appropriate

We are witnessing a change being imposed in the social work/care workforce.

There are adverts for ‘Home Youth Work’ avoiding the use of the words “children’s residential care”.

Here’s a puzzle that shows the invidious position Ofsted are to be placed in. Imagine a provider has Home Youth Workers that have lesser knowledge, training and knowledge and Residential Child Care Workers as part of a pooled workforce. On one day an employee with less knowledge and skills has to go to Supported Accommodation this meet regulatory thresholds. The next they are to work in a children’s home, they then do not meet the Children’s Homes regulations for knowledge and experience as identified by holding the Diploma. Or a children’s home worker going to work in supported accommodation, how do they not provide the care they would be doing under Children’s Homes Regs? And then there is the notion of teams, groups and pools. When considering multisite homes Ofsted have previously clarified that the pooled approach to a workforce was not acceptable.

Now place all of the above in a situation where a DCS does not necessarily have to have experience of children’s services. A recently published Staff College report Leading for Longer: New report issues call to action on high turnover of leadership roles in children’s services – Staff College ( includes “The DCS role itself does not actually need technical expertise in service delivery; it is a strategic leadership role, and the DCS has a senior leadership team which supplies the necessary expertise in the different service areas.”

It seems it is possible that the notion of Freeports and Behavioural Insights is as yet unrecognised.

Now it might be that if you want to see it you can, and I would own up to seeing it. What could be said to anyone who raised the question: that doesn’t mean it is not there?