Category Added in a WPeMatico Campaign

Climate activists have dug up a lawn outside a Cambridge University college over its role in a major development in the Suffolk countryside.

Extinction Rebellion members said the action at Trinity College was taken against the “destruction of nature”.

Activists then took dug-up mud to a local Barclays Bank branch.

Innocence Farm in Trimley St Martin has been part of plans, involving Trinity, for a lorry park. The college said it supported work to fight climate change.

A Cambridgeshire Police spokeswoman said the force was liaising with the college and that “a crime has been recorded for criminal damage”.

A spokeswoman for Barclays Bank confirmed activists carrying wheelbarrows full of mud had spread it across the banking hall of its St Andrew’s Street branch.

She added the branch had been kept open and staff ensured customers were safe.

Activists, who also chained themselves to an apple tree on the college’s front lawn, said they “were careful to ensure that the digging took place a safe distance from the tree so as not to cause any damage to it”.

The local group also claimed on Twitter the college invested more money in oil and gas companies than any other Oxbridge college.

Derek Langley, a member of Extinction Rebellion Cambridge, said: “The idea that a rich institution like Trinity College, which tells the world it is serious about tackling this crisis, is looking for profit from environmental destruction is quite simply astonishing.”

Local businessman Dr Tim Norman described the action as “counter-productive vandalism”.

He said: “[It] seemed to confuse the tourists too, as it wasn’t clear what they were doing it for.”

A Trinity spokeswoman said the college “respects the right to freedom of speech and non-violent protest but draws the line at criminal damage and asked the protesters to leave”.

She added: “Academics at Trinity are actively engaged in research to understand and develop solutions to climate change, and taking practical steps forward.”

The spokeswoman added the college supported the university’s Cambridge Zero project, which was launched in November and led by Dr Emily Shuckburgh, one of the UK’s leading climate scientists.

A Barclays spokeswoman said: “We recognise that climate change is one of the greatest challenges facing the world today, and are determined to do all we can to support the transition to a low-carbon economy, while also ensuring that global energy needs continue to be met.”

Members of the group have also been taking part in a week-long road blockade in the city – prompting police to use emergency powers to shut off roads.

Last week a meeting had to be abandoned when a protester abseiled into the council chamber.

Health, education and roads in Northern Ireland will benefit from an extra £18m in spending this financial year.

The money has been made available as a result of late spending decisions made by Whitehall departments.

Those spending decisions have an automatic knock-on effect to devolved administrations.

They will also lead to an unexpected reduction in the capital budget, which will be deferred until the new financial year.

The capital budget pays for things like new buildings and roads.

It is being reduced by £52m and finance minister Conor Murphy said it is too late in the financial year to find that money.

“The capital budget was fully allocated. The decision has therefore been made to defer the reduction until 2020-21, where it can be managed as part of the wider Budget process.”

Of the additional £18m most (£10m) will go to the Department of Education to deal with immediate pressures.

The Department of Health gets almost £4m to deal with pay pressures with doctors and dentists and a further £1.3m for health pressures.

The remaining money goes to the Department for Infrastructure to provide services to deal with winter conditions, such as road gritting and street light repairs.

Mr Murphy said there had been an option to carry the money forward to the new financial years but “in view of the unfunded pressures in departments… the executive has decided to access that funding in this year.”

Young carers spend an average of 25 hours a week looking after loved ones, new research suggests.

Their unpaid work is the equivalent of £12,000 a year on a part-time carer’s wage, says Action for Children.

Describing it as a “hidden child workforce”, the charity says the amount of responsibility being placed upon children is “appalling”.

The Department for Education says young carers “should be protected from excessive caring responsibilities”.

The pressures of being a young carer

‘I missed four weeks’ school a year caring for my sick mum’

A survey of 383 young carers aged between seven and 18 by the children’s charity, found their care equated to around £240 a week.

There were 491,000 carers aged 24 or younger in the UK, according to the 2011 census.

Chloe’s story: ‘It took away my childhood’

“I can’t be a normal child,” says Chloe, 16, from Birmingham.

She started caring when she was 10 and looks after her mum, who has mental health problems and a lung condition, as well as her dad.

“I do medication for my mum. I do housework. With my younger brother and sister, I do their breakfast and get them ready for school.

“It has made me mature, but it has taken away my childhood. Instead of being out – and being able stay out – I have to come and make sure my mum is taking the medication at the right time.”

Chloe says there have been times when caring has become “too much”, saying she has suffered with depression.

“I was the mum for her, but she’s meant to be my mum. I felt that I had no one.”

Chloe is now getting support from children’s charity Spurgeons, but she wants the government to do more for people in situations like hers.

“They allow us to do their work for them and they just turn a blind eye to us,” she says.

“At times it’s frustrating but I have to get on with it because it’s not going to change.”

Action for Children is calling on the government to give all young carers access to respite service.

It says current provisions are “patchy”, despite the services being a “lifeline” for some young carers.

The charity’s deputy chief executive, Carol Iddon, says the fact young carers exist at all is “a sad indictment of our situation”.

“I hear people saying, ‘Oh, come on, kids needs to do chores’, but this isn’t about that. This is about young children taking on quite an adult role and it isn’t acceptable.”

In response to the survey, the Department for Education said young carers “should be protected from excessive caring responsibilities”.

“We expect adult and children’s services to work together and take a whole family approach in identifying and supporting young carers.”

Suzanna and Marissa’s story: ‘I feel guilty’

Suzanna Salter, from St Ives, Cornwall, relies on care from her 11-year-old daughter Marissa.

Suzanna has back problems made worse by a car accident, as well as a lung disease.

“I feel guilty, as if I’m not letting her have a childhood,” she says. “It’s horrible. She shouldn’t have the level of responsibility that she has. She is a child doing an adult job.”

Suzanna says she gets eight hours of care per week on the NHS, adding: “That is the only time Marissa doesn’t have to be on call for me.”

Marissa has missed around a quarter of her school classes in some academic years due to her responsibilities as a carer.

She says: “I love my mum and want to help her but I think we need more support.

“In the mornings I have to get her out of bed, help her put her socks on, and make her coffee.

“I also do the washing up, help with cleaning and the laundry and cooking. And I walk down to the shops to do the shopping because mum isn’t supposed to lift anything.

“I also get upset sometimes because I go online and see all my friends are going to places that I want to go to and they haven’t told me about it because they know I can’t go.”

Follow the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme on Facebook and Twitter – and see more of our stories here.

A council has approved the first state-funded Catholic school to be built in England for more than a decade.

Plans for the primary school at the new Hampton Water development in Peterborough were approved on Wednesday night, despite an 11th-hour challenge from three city councillors.

The school has been criticised over “discriminatory” selection criteria.

Jonathan Lewis, of Peterborough City Council, said: “Meeting local need is always the priority.”

It will open to 90 children in 2022, growing to accommodate 630 pupils.

The government will pay 90% of the estimated £11m-£15m cost, with the city council contributing between £1.1m and £1.5m.

Campaigners said the decision was “discriminatory” for prioritising pupils on faith, while there are concerns over increased traffic on the nearby A15.

If the school is oversubscribed, it will make selection 80% Catholic faith-based, with the rest chosen by proximity.

The council said the admissions policy would be “reviewed annually by the school governing body”.

Mr Lewis, director of education, said the criteria for primary school admission was “never an exact science”.

“Ultimately we have an obligation to provide school places and we feel the proposal is a positive one,” he said.

“We have looked at the numbers and I’m very confident that in the Hampton area there are four other schools within a mile, so we can meet that need.”

There are currently 25 schools within the Roman Catholic Diocese of East Anglia.

Parent Tracy Butler, who protested at the meeting, said she was “disgusted” the council “didn’t vote with its conscience”.

“We want a school that all local children can go to,” she said.

“There are families here of different faiths and no faiths and the council has taken that choice away.”

Joseph McCrossan, head teacher of St Alban’s Roman Catholic Primary School in Cambridge, said faith schools across the diocese were largely mixed.

“In my experience Catholic schools look at the wider community, at global issues, at other faiths, cultures and values. We celebrate that.”

More than 5,000 qualifications in England studied by few or, in some cases, no students are being scrapped.

The Department for Education is pulling funding from about 40% of the 12,000 post-16 qualifications as it prepares to introduce new T-levels in September.

T-levels are post-GCSE courses, equivalent to three A-levels, developed in collaboration with businesses.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said finding the right course was like looking for a needle in a haystack.

He added: “Removing funding for qualifications that have no or low numbers of enrolments will help make sure students have a clearer choice of the qualifications on offer, and ensure they get the skills they need to progress.”

The move is the latest step in the government’s wider review of post-16 qualifications at Level 3 – A-level standard – and below.

But the head of the well respected qualification provider City and Guilds said the move would be “disastrous for social mobility”.

The qualifications purge will move closer to a system where teenagers choose at age 16 from one of three routes – A-levels, apprenticeships or T-levels.

But Tom Bewick, the head of the trade association for examining bodies the Federation of Awarding Bodies, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “There are 50,000 degree courses in this country, and you haven’t had a vice-chancellor sitting here in front of you having to explain why there is so many.”

He questioned whether Whitehall officials were the people best placed, to make “really important life chance decisions about qualifications”.

“This is clearly a very top down review… vocational technical qualifications have been a great idea but they’re for other people’s children – and they certainly aren’t for the people that are in the senior levels within the Department for Education.”

What are T-levels?

T-levels will offer students a mixture of classroom learning and “on-the-job” experience during an industry placement. The first three will be available in some qualifications from September, but only 2,000 places will be on offer initially.

The qualifications – in subjects such as accountancy, catering, finance, hair and beauty and manufacturing – have been developed in collaboration with employers and businesses to meet the needs of industry and prepare students for work.

Candidates will be awarded one of four overall grades after their two years of study, ranging from distinction* to a pass.

They will also get a nationally recognised certificate which will show their overall grade and a breakdown of what they have achieved across the T-level programme.

The aim of Thursday’s announcement was to ensure all qualifications on offer were high-quality, necessary, and supported students to progress into employment or further study, the DfE said.

The kind of qualifications being scrapped are certificates for specific businesses or jobs, such as dry-stone walling, nail art and warehouse management, but they also include entry-level qualifications and one designed to boost the confidence of pupils who struggle with learning.

Some qualifications aimed at pupils with learning and physical disabilities are being axed, too.

The move is also intended to ensure funding goes towards more popular qualifications that help students learn skills they need to go on to have successful careers.

The government is seeking views on whether any of the 5,000 qualifications on the list should continue to attract public funding

Mr Bewick said not everyone would feel one of the three routes was suitable for them.

He said: “Clearly where there are qualifications where they are no longer in demand, they will discontinue.”

But he gave the example of one of the qualifications which could be at risk – Level 3 in aromatherapy, used by the Royal National College for the Blind.

“It’s actually a qualification that helps learners who have visual impairment gain access employment in the therapeutic and spa industries,” he said. “It enrols very few numbers but nevertheless that’s an example of a very niche qualification that helps people into the labour market.”

He said: “We have got young people, who are leaving school who are turned off by classroom learning. They need opportunities for learning by doing, to get practical vocational qualifications.”

City and Guilds chief executive Kirstie Donnelly said many students were simply not ready to make the jump from GCSEs to T-levels.

The introduction of T-levels is the biggest shake-up in vocational education in a generation. They will be tough and are meant to help more people to attain the higher-level skills businesses say they need.

Each year, about 70,000 teenagers in England do not pass a single GCSE at Grade 4 or above. A further 136,000 do not get a single GCSE at the strong pass, Grade 5.

For those expected to then go on to study T-levels, a transition year will try to help them prepare – but not all will be able to make the leap.

And some of the qualifications being scrapped were aimed at these very teenagers, who may be disengaged and lacking in basic employability skills.

“Removing that vital rung on the skills ladder towards Level 3 and above will be disastrous for social mobility and leave more and more people stranded with no route into work,” she said.

“We urge the government to think carefully before removing this lifeline for people and leaving employers unable to access the skilled workforces they need.”

UK universities are using “gagging” clauses to stop students from going public with complaints of sexual assault, bullying and poor teaching.

Students said they felt pressured to sign non-disclosure agreements and one was told she would be expelled if she broke her contract.

Nearly a third of universities have used NDAs for student grievances since 2016, data obtained by BBC News shows.

Universities UK said NDAs should not be used to silence students.

Non-disclosure agreements, which were designed to protect business secrets, are legal contracts that stop people from sharing private information.

NDAs were also used in settling complaints of false advertising of courses, lack of disability support and accommodation issues, according to the data obtained under Freedom of Information laws by The Next Episode podcast.

The government said it was “unacceptable” to use NDAs for student complaints and it is legislating to stop such agreements being misused across all areas of society.

Getty Images

University NDAsSource: BBC freedom of information requests

‘What happened after was worse than my assault’

Charlotte – not her real name – said she reported being sexually assaulted by another student while an undergraduate at the University of West London (UWL).

She reported it to the university and the police.

Officers interviewed the arts student for five hours before telling her that there was not enough physical evidence to prosecute because she had “blacked out”.

Charlotte said she was “plunged into emotional chaos” and overdosed shortly afterwards.

She took three weeks sick leave to recover, but felt unsupported when she returned to university and her academic work suffered.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Charlotte said a staff member thanked her in a private meeting for not ruining her alleged attacker’s life. They later said she would be expelled if she made a fuss, she added.

“They literally thanked me,” she said. “I can’t believe someone would say that when it happened to me. Not him.”

In a recording, shared with BBC News, staff can also be heard telling her classmates she had “got herself into a very bad place” and discouraging them from contacting her.

“It was hell on earth,” Charlotte said. “How they treated me was worse than the assault itself. I felt so alone.”

She submitted a formal complaint and took legal action, after which she received £1,000 in compensation. As part of the settlement, she signed an NDA preventing her from discussing the terms.

The University of West London said it disputed the allegations and had provided Charlotte with all the support it could, adding that it could not comment further because of its confidentiality duties.

In a statement, it said it had reviewed its policies in light of national recommendations for responding to sexual harassment in universities, adding: “We have implemented those and have a team of staff who are trained to support students who find themselves the victim of sexual assault.”

‘Told I’d be expelled’

Olivia, a student at a different university, says she was violently sexually assaulted by a fellow student during her undergraduate degree and reported the attack to police, but the case was dropped because of insufficient evidence.

As a result of the decision by police, her university refused to investigate, according to documents seen by BBC News.

Following the attack, Olivia signed an agreement that says she will be “expelled” if she talks or posts publicly about her allegations or the university’s safeguarding procedures.

Olivia, also not her real name, says she signed the document because she was afraid for her safety and it contained an agreement that prevented her attacker from contacting her, but she feels it does not go far enough.

She was not offered any money or given any legal advice before signing it.

Her university has also threatened to sue her if she speaks out, she claims.

“It terrified me,” she said. “They told me to not tell my parents, to not tell my friends, to basically just be quiet about it… it made it feel like it was my fault.”

Georgina Calvert-Lee, a lawyer specialising in sexual assault cases, said most uses of NDAs on students with these types of allegations were “unethical” and likely to be legally unenforceable.

‘Bullied into keeping quiet’

Tiziana Scaramuzza, now 36, a former PhD student, was paid by Oriel College, Oxford, to support student welfare alongside her law degree in 2013.

She says she repeatedly raised concerns with senior staff about what she thought were failures in suicide prevention measures and about alleged breaches of confidentiality when supporting at risk students.

She told the BBC a staff member had been discouraging depressed students from going to the doctor in favour of one-on-one support sessions with them, despite not being qualified to do so.

“I was bullied into keeping quiet and all my concerns were dismissed or shouted down,” she said. “They treated me like dirt.”

After Tiziana submitted suggestions to improve safeguarding measures, Oriel college offered her a £5,000 settlement with an NDA to sever ties, which she accepted.

“It was completely inappropriate,” she said. “They treated me like an inconvenience, like I was the problem, instead of dealing with the problem.

“Once I moved to a different college to finish my PhD, I learnt they hadn’t made any changes, which was concerning because a lot of students were vulnerable.”

Oriel College said it could not comment on Ms Scaramuzza’s claims but confirmed that a “thorough investigation” into welfare provision in 2013 had been conducted.

It added: “The college takes the welfare of students and staff very seriously. We currently have several members of staff, external doctors and counsellors providing welfare support.”

How widespread is the problem?

BBC News sent Freedom of Information requests to almost all of the UK’s universities asking how many students had signed non-disclosure agreements in the past four years after bringing a complaint and how much, if any, money had been paid out.

All but two of the 136 universities contacted responded, with varying degrees of transparency owing to data protection concerns or claims of confidentiality.

Of these, 45 universities said they had used NDAs but not all of them disclosed full details, meaning it is hard to determine the true scale and this is an underestimate.

The data shows about 300 students have signed NDAs after complaints since 2016, with the total cost paid out being more than £1.3m – equivalent to about 50 undergraduate degrees.

Individual payouts ranged from £250 to nearly £40,000.

However, the data also showed not every student who filed a complaint received a payout – sometimes just an NDA – and it is not clear why this is.

It comes after the BBC found universities had spent £87m on pay-offs with staff since 2017.

The student complaints regulator, the Office of the Independent Adjudicator, said the use of NDAs was “not appropriate” and advised against the practice.

It receives more than 1,500 complaints a year and said it was important grievances were “handled fairly and transparently” so universities learnt from them.

In a statement, the government said: “Harassment of any sort is abhorrent and higher education providers have a responsibility to ensure they provide a safe and inclusive environment.”

Universities UK, which represents 136 institutions, added: “Every student should feel safe and supported through their time at university and this includes feeling empowered to speak out if they have concerns.”

Follow Rianna on Twitter: @The_Crox

Children who spend lots of time sitting still are more likely to develop depression by the age of 18, a study suggests.

Researchers at University College London looked at the activity levels of 4,257 12- to 16-year-olds.

Those who did an additional hour of light activity each day, such as walking or chores, had fewer depressive symptoms when they reached adulthood.

The study suggests people of all ages should be encouraged to move more.

The participants, from the University of Bristol’s Children of the 90s cohort study, wore accelerometers for at least 10 hours on at least three consecutive days (except when they were washing or doing water sports) at the ages of 12, 14 and 16.

These devices showed whether they were sitting still, engaging in light activity – such as walking or engaging in moderate to vigorous activity – such as running or cycling.

The children also filled out a questionnaire that measured depressive symptoms such as low mood, loss of pleasure and poor concentration.

Between the ages of 12 and 16, physical activity declined, while sedentary behaviour increased, the study says.

Researchers found the average time per day spent on:

  • sitting still rose from about seven hours to eight and a half
  • light activity decreased from about five and a half hours to four
  • moderate to vigorous activity “remained stable”

They found for every additional hour a day spent sitting still at the ages of 12, 14 and 16, the participants’ depression score rose by 11.1%, 8% and 10.7%, respectively.

While with light activity, their depression score fell by 9.6%, 7.8% and 11.1%, respectively.

By the age of 18, the questionnaire scores suggested there were 747 possible cases of depression.

‘Sit less’

Lead author and UCL psychiatry PhD student Aaron Kandola said: “We found that it’s not just more intense forms of activity that are good for our mental health but any degree of physical activity that can reduce the time we spend sitting down is likely to be beneficial.

“We should be encouraging people of all ages to move more, and to sit less, as it’s good for both our physical and mental health.

“Worryingly, the amount of time that young people spend inactive has been steadily rising for years but there has been a surprising lack of high-quality research into how this could affect mental health.

“The number of young people with depression also appears to be growing and our study suggests that these two trends may be linked.”

Senior author, Dr Joseph Hayes, from Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Light activity could be particularly useful because it doesn’t require much effort and it’s easy to fit into the daily routines of most young people.

“Schools could integrate light activity into their pupils’ days, such as with standing or active lessons.”

The study, published in the Lancet Psychiatry journal, also involved King’s College London and South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust.

Follow Katherine on Twitter.

New powers will be given to the watchdog Ofcom to force social media firms to act over harmful content.

Until now, firms like Facebook, Tiktok, YouTube, Snapchat and Twitter have largely been self-regulating.

The companies have defended their own rules about taking down unacceptable content, but critics say independent rules are needed to keep people safe.

It is unclear what penalties Ofcom will be able to enforce to target violence, cyber-bullying and child abuse.

There have been widespread calls for social media firms to take more responsibility for their content, especially after the death of Molly Russell who took her own life after viewing graphic content on Instagram.

The government has now announced it is “minded” to grant new powers to Ofcom – which currently only regulates the media and the telecoms industry, not internet safety.

Ofcom will have the power to make tech firms responsible for protecting people from harmful content such as violence, terrorism, cyber-bullying and child abuse – and platforms will need to ensure that content is removed quickly.

They will also be expected to “minimise the risks” of it appearing at all.

The regulator has just announced the appointment of a new chief executive, Dame Melanie Dawes, who will take up the role in March.

“There are many platforms who ideally would not have wanted regulation, but I think that’s changing,” said Digital Secretary Baroness Nicky Morgan.

“I think they understand now that actually regulation is coming.”

Julian Knight, chair elect of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee which scrutinises social media companies, called for “a muscular approach” to regulation.

“That means more than a hefty fine – it means having the clout to disrupt the activities of businesses that fail to comply, and ultimately, the threat of a prison sentence for breaking the law,” he said.

In a statement, Facebook said it had “long called” for new regulation, and said it was “looking forward to carrying on the discussion” with the government and wider industry.

New powers

Communication watchdog Ofcom already regulates television and radio broadcasters, including the BBC, and deals with complaints about them.

This is the government’s first response to the Online Harms consultation it carried out in the UK in 2019, which received 2,500 replies.

The new rules will apply to firms hosting user-generated content, including comments, forums and video-sharing – that is likely to include Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, YouTube and TikTok.

The intention is that government sets the direction of the policy but gives Ofcom the freedom to draw up and adapt the details. By doing this, the watchdog should have the ability to tackle new online threats as they emerge without the need for further legislation.

A full response will be published in the spring.

Children’s charity the NSPCC welcomed the news.

“Too many times social media companies have said: ‘We don’t like the idea of children being abused on our sites, we’ll do something, leave it to us,'” said chief executive Peter Wanless.

“Thirteen self-regulatory attempts to keep children safe online have failed.

“Statutory regulation is essential.”

Seyi Akiwowo set up the online abuse awareness group Glitch after experiencing sexist and racist harassment online after a video of her giving a talk in her role as a councillor was posted on a neo-Nazi forum.

“When I first suffered abuse the response of the tech companies was below [what I’d hoped],” she said.

“I am excited by the Online Harms Bill – it places the duty of care on these multi-billion pound tech companies.”

Global regulation

In many countries, social media platforms are permitted to regulate themselves, as long as they adhere to local laws on illegal material.

Germany introduced the NetzDG Law in 2018, which states that social media platforms with more than two million registered German users have to review and remove illegal content within 24 hours of being posted or face fines of up to €50m (£42m).

Australia passed the Sharing of Abhorrent Violent Material Act in April 2019, introducing criminal penalties for social media companies, possible jail sentences for tech executives for up to three years and financial penalties worth up to 10% of a company’s global turnover.

China blocks many western tech giants including Twitter, Google and Facebook, and the state monitors Chinese social apps for politically sensitive content.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

The government is set to ban the placement of children in care under the age of 16 in unregulated homes in England, following a BBC investigation.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said “the BBC highlighted something that just needed to be changed”.

A consultation also proposes greater powers for Ofsted to tackle unregistered children’s homes.

Last year, BBC News revealed that children as young as 11 were being housed in these homes.

Unregulated homes, often known as semi-independent or supported accommodation, are not inspected by a regulator in England or Wales.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Councils have a duty to place children in care in homes, and typically house them in registered children’s homes or with foster carers.

But increasingly, local authorities are placing children in care under the age of 16 in unregulated homes which are only qualified to offer support and not full-time care.

‘I wouldn’t want this for my children’

Ofsted says it is illegal to provide care in an unregulated home but BBC News found a loophole is being used that allows children to be placed in these homes while on holiday.

One 15-year-old girl was placed in eight different unregulated placements in a year.

Now the government says it wants to ban the placement of under-16s in these homes and has launched a consultation.

“Your reports expose that there are children being placed in that type of care. That isn’t something that we are going to allow to continue,” Mr Williamson said.

“I think anyone with compassion in their heart realises [it’s] not right… I wouldn’t want this for my children or anyone else’s.”

Mr Williamson added that councils will have their children’s services departments taken over if they continue to place children in unregulated homes.

“If a local authority thinks they can continue to place children in those types of environment, quite simply they will have those powers withdrawn in order to be able to continue to look after children’s services.”

In 2019, following a series of reports on BBC Newsnight, the children’s minister at the time, Nadhim Zahawi, said that full regulation would be a “knee-jerk reaction”.

The Local Government Association said it was “vital” the government uses its consultation to understand the pressures on accommodation for children in care.

“The increasing use of unregulated settings is being driven by shortfalls in places in registered children’s homes and other settings, particularly for young people with more complex needs,” it said.

The government’s consultation also plans to provide additional powers to Ofsted – the regulator of registered children’s homes – to intervene when they suspect a setting is being used as an unregistered home.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Ofsted already has the power to prosecute providers, but the BBC has learned there have been no prosecutions following 150 investigations.

Only around 100 of the 6,000 residents in unregulated homes are under the age of 16. More typically, 16 and 17-year-olds are placed in such settings.

Last year, as part of a series of BBC News investigations into unregulated homes, it was revealed that young people faced “organised abuse” while living in these placements.

One 16-year-old girl had been trafficked from her home and abused, while another boy, also 16, said the home he stayed in was just a “drug deal house”.

Ed Nixon of the Independent Children’s Homes Association said distinguishing between children under the age of 16 and those under 18 is “entirely misguided.”

“We are prepared to treat 16-year-old child care leavers as if they are ready to live independently with very limited support”, it said.

“There must be no question of regulating establishments that provide accommodation for both children and adults which can commonly be the case in currently unregulated accommodation.”

The government’s consultation says it also plans to introduce compulsory national standards to improve conditions for young people in these homes.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

An eight-year-old girl has been home-tutored for 20 months because of a lack of disabled toilets in schools.

Imogen Ashwell-Lewis has cerebral palsy and has not been able to find a school with suitable facilities since leaving Rogiet Primary in June 2018.

Monmouthshire council said it was following Welsh Government guidance.

A disability charity said many parents of disabled children felt their youngsters were “a bit of an afterthought”.

Imogen’s mum Catherine Ashwell-Rice, from Caldicot in Monmouthshire, said her daughter left Rogiet Primary after she raised a series of concerns.

These resulted in her bringing a disability discriminatory appeal at a special educational needs tribunal for Wales.

The council said it had worked “with all agencies and Mrs Ashwell-Rice to resolve the situation in 2018”.

But Mrs Ashwell-Rice said she had learnt Rogiet is the only Monmouthshire school with a child accessible disabled toilet – and she has had a 20-month battle to get Imogen into another school.

“Some of the schools were unsuitable because of the physical make up of them,” Mrs Ashwell-Rice said.

“And then we kept going further and further afield until we found schools that were suitable.”

Despite promises adaptations would be made to a number of schools, the situation remained unresolved.

Monmouthshire council is paying for home tuition for Imogen for three hours, four days a week.

Mrs Ashwell-Rice said the last few months been “an emotional rollercoaster” for herself and Imogen.

“Every time we think we’ve got a school and that things are going to move forward, we discover that the adaptations can’t be made, or that we’re promised they’ll be done and they haven’t.

“It’s obviously been really disruptive for Imogen’s education.”

Disability Wales chief executive Rhian Davies said it was a familiar tale.

“And despite 25 years of equality legislation, we’re still not getting it right in Wales,” she said.

“We’re still a long way off a fully inclusive education system.”

A Monmouthshire County Council spokesman said toilets were provided according to Welsh Government design guidance.

“Pupils’ needs are assessed on an individual basis and further adaptations to toilets in disabled facilities are made if necessary,” he said.

The spokesman said an independent mediator was used to try and resolve the situation which led to Mrs Ashwell-Rice withdrawing her complaint to the Disability Discrimination Tribunal.

He said the authority was working closely with Mrs Ashwell-Rice “and other agencies to ensure that Imogen’s needs are fully met in a school setting”.