Charity informs Court of Appeal of uncooperative council departments
Shelter intervenes in teenage care case
Homelessness charity Shelter has intervened in a Court of Appeal case in which Lambeth Council is accused of failing to protect a homeless teenager.
This is the third case in as many years in which council social services have been accused of failing in their duty towards homeless teenagers. This week major research by Inside Housing indicates that this is a widespread problem, with councils nationwide referring significant numbers of 16 and 17-year-olds to housing departments after they have been assessed by social services (see graph, right).
In this latest case, the claimant, named as ‘TG’, now 21 years old, appealed against a High Court ruling that he was not entitled to care services from the south London council beyond age 18. As part of the case, Shelter has written to the Court of Appeal to highlight the lack of co-operation between housing and social services.
TG was 16 years old when Lambeth Council’s youth offending team referred him to the housing department. He believes he should have been referred to social services instead and received support as a child.
Homeless young people cared for by social services before they reach the age of 18 can receive ongoing support such as help with benefits and job applications until they are 21 or 24. Those housed by the housing department do not receive this assistance.
When the case reached the High Court in April, the judgement admitted the council ‘should probably have referred the claimant to the team in charge of children’s social services’. But the court turned down the application for a judicial review because TG’s needs had never been drawn to the attention of social services.
Shelter’s letter argued that this case highlighted the failure of local authorities to heed two previous rulings that social services and housing departments need to work together.
Lambeth Council said it ‘could not comment before the hearing is concluded and judgement handed down’.
The judgement is expected in the next few weeks. TG may take his case to the Supreme Court if he fails.
Freedom of information requests by Inside Housing found that, in spite of previous rulings, 36 council social services departments continue to pass on large numbers of 16 and 17-year-olds to housing departments after social services had assessed them.
A total of 487 homeless 16 and 17-year-olds were referred back to housing services between 2007 and 2009. Social services in those councils housed just 677 children and provided support to 1,320 children.
Baroness Hale of Richmond tells social services departments not to ‘avoid their responsibilities’ towards homeless 16 and 17-year-olds
Baroness Hale again warns social services to stop ‘passing the buck’ onto housing departments in a High Court case against Southwark
Government-issued guidance on homeless 16 and 17-year-olds tells social services they must assess every applicant
A survey of councils carried out by Inside Housing using the Freedom of Information Act reveals councils are flouting government guidance with less than 30 per cent of homeless 16 and 17-year-olds receiving statutory assessments and hundreds housed in ‘unsuitable accommodation’