Thursday, 18 September 2014

Councils flouting law on housing young people

Council protocols for dealing with homeless 16 and 17-year-olds are not complying with the law and are failing young people, according to a report.

Research done by the umbrella-group Law Centres Network showed councils did not clearly indicate in their protocols social services are the lead authority for homeless 16 and 17-year-olds.

They also showed 7 per cent advocated the use of bed and breakfast accommodation for this age group ‘as a matter of course’.

Statutory guidance published by the government in April 2010 stated children’s services should be the lead agency with regard to assessing and meeting the needs of homeless 16 and 17-year-olds.

It also said it was ‘essential’ for councils to have a joint protocol between housing and social services, the protocols should stop young people being ‘passed from pillar to post’ and that B&B accommodation is not suitable for this age group ‘even on an emergency accommodation basis’.

This followed two rulings in the High Court from Baroness Hale of Richmond in February 2008 and May 2009 in which she told social services not to ‘pass the buck’ to housing departments in relation to 16 and 17-year-olds.

The Law Centres Network, a national charity supporting law centres, which help vulnerable and disadvantaged people, found 27 per cent of the 138 local authorities which took part in a survey did not indicate social services should be the lead authority for 16 and 17-year-olds in their protocol.

In London 10 per cent of local authorities advocated the use of B&Bs for the teenagers. Overall 52 per cent of local authorities – and 63 per cent in London – made no reference in their protocol to the statutory guidance that prohibits the use of B&Bs.

Just 14 per cent, 10 per cent in London, of local authorities in the research prohibited the use of B&Bs.

The charity, which set out its findings in a briefing paper sent to local authorities last week, also stated a ‘good protocol’ should accurately set out its responsibility under section 20 of the Children Act 1989, which requires a council to provide accommodation for any child in need in its area.

Thirty-eight per cent of all protocols did not set out section 20 correctly and 61 per cent of the protocols did not correctly apply section 20, the research found.

The charity said: ‘Protocols need to be improved. Our findings were that many do not adequately guarantee that the correct processes are being followed to ensure that 16 and 17-year-old homeless young people are provided with the support they need and are entitled to under the law and statutory guidance.’

It recommends local authorities urgently review their protocols and increase dialogue with services supporting 16 and 17-year-olds.

Readers' comments (1)

  • To help 16 and 17 year olds understand the support they are entitled to, St Christopher's Fellowship, in partnership with Shelter, have produced a film to help young people have the confidence to express what they want during the assessment process - and signpost them to further sources of information. This may be a useful tool for people advising homeless 16 and 17 year olds. Have a look at our website for more information:

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