The use of “Time Out”

The following article has just been received as part of a consultation process – but the deadline is 8 August, so if you have a message for the author, please email straight away.

The Issue

The question of placing a young person in an establishment other than the designated one is an historical issue but it has become a particular problem due to a rigid interpretation of an inflexible piece of legislation.

For example, if a young person’s behaviour places himself/herself at risk to self or others, providers are required to give the placing Local Authority 28 days’ notice to end the placement due to them no longer being able to effectively or safely meet the young person’s needs. The most robust of admission processes will not always legislate for a situation where a young person’s needs post admission go beyond what a home can continue to offer or provide.

As providers we would not want to simply place the young person in a car and take them to the Local Authority office. Instead we would want to put in place arrangements to manage the appropriate ending of the placement, including keeping themselves and others safe. This could involve using alternative accommodation e.g. holiday accommodation or activity based accommodation, but this immediately makes providers liable to being accused of opening an unregistered children’s home.

However, this is never the intention of the providers and the arrangement is driven more by wanting to support a young person’s move to a more appropriate placement whilst safeguarding the young person and others. The key issue, therefore, is one of safeguarding.

The current regulation is felt to be prohibitive and does not allow for such occasional circumstances, for the use of time out to create some time and space to plan appropriately. Sustaining relationships and making efforts to achieve a degree of stability have greater paramountcy than the actual physical setting.

Proposed change

It is proposed that this regulation should be reviewed, to consider including the option of allowing exceptions where there are safeguarding issues and where it can be clearly demonstrated by the provider that it is in the child’s best interests to be supported by the current placement whilst an alternative placement is sought.

Providers fully understand the principles behind the need to safeguard against unregistered children’s homes. However, there are examples where the current regulation has prevented appropriate and effective working to meet the needs of care young people.


Do you have experience of this issue? Do you have views about the proposal? If you have please email Lesley Wright – and us as well.

[email protected]

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