Are court orders being used to wrongly deprive children of their liberty?

A BBC investigation has uncovered that children are wrongly being kept in non-Ofsted registered accommodation with the use of Family Court Deprivation of Liberty Orders. It is reported that children are being kept in holiday parks and AirBnb’s instead of suitable children’s home or in foster placements.

It is suggested that the reason for this is due to the lack of Oftsed approved children’s homes, resulting in local authorities being without accommodation options for a huge amount of children in need.

Since September 2021 all children’s homes that accommodated under 16’s needed to be registered with Oftsed. This move was part of the Department for Education’s reforms of unregulated provisions and enforced an Oftsed-led registration and inspection regime.

The normal route for a child who needed accommodating would be for them to be placed in foster care or in a children’s home; however due to a limited number of both options it has led to local authorities seeking alternative accommodation.

Prior to the regulatory changes, some children’s homes which may have been considered suitable and safe were not registered and could no longer be used as a resource.

A route to place a child legally in an unregulated provision is done by applying to the court to seek a Deprivation of Liberty order which will specify the child’s living accommodation and the conditions they have to abide by; however in a lot of cases this is not the appropriate route.

Deprivation of liberty orders can be much more stringent compared to the rules and restrictions in a children’s home. The orders will vary from case to case but they can restrict a child’s freedom confining them to one location. In some scenarios this may be appropriate however the BBC investigation found that in real life scenarios this was often not appropriate.  

Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) figures support the increase; in the year 2020-21 there was almost double the amount of Deprivation of Liberty Orders for under 18’s than the previous year. If the statistics continue as they are doing for 2021-22 there will again be a significant increase on the previous year.

It is possible that this increase is linked to the Covid pandemic which has resulted in breakdowns in families and foster placements leading to a huge need to placements for vulnerable children. The Department for Education told the BBC it was for councils to provide suitable accommodation and the Chancellor has announced there will be more investment to assist them with this in the future.

Written by Nicola Aspinwall at BLM (

The National Association for People Abused in Childhood is a national charity offering support to adult survivors of all types of childhood abuse, including physical, emotional, sexual and neglect. As well as advocating on behalf of survivors in the media and elsewhere, NAPAC also trains professionals who have frequent contact with survivors of child abuse as part of their working environment. If you have been affected by the issues raised in today’s blog, or would like additional support, please use the links above.

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