Dangerous practices continue, despite a string of legal judgments – Do we actually care about our young people?
Young people should not be living in B&Bs
Local authorities are continuing to place 16- and 17-year-olds in bed and breakfast accommodation despite legal judgments
Bed and breakfasts lack the stability and support that vulnerable young people require, and may increase the risks they face. Composite: guardian.co.uk
The use of bed and breakfast accommodation to illegally house families for more than six weeks has hit the headlines. Local authorities are struggling to house homeless families, and the inappropriate and harmful use of B&Bs as a stopgap has been reported across a number of local authorities in England. This is despite there being agreement that such accommodation is overcrowded, prevents families from cooking at home and eating together, and can disrupt children‘s education and general wellbeing.
However, children living with their families are not the only ones who are placed in bed and breakfast accommodation. For the past few years there has been a growing disquiet about their use to house young people, particularly those aged 16 and 17. Children in care, as well as children leaving custody, have been known to have been placed in B&Bs when councils have been unable to identify alternative accommodation. No one knows the exact numbers, but in early 2011 the children’s charity Barnardo’s reported that the placing of 16- and 17-year-olds in B&Bs and hostel accommodation upon release from custody was “common”. The charity Railway Children, which works with children who have run away or are forced to leave home, has also found that these children, who are at risk of sexual exploitation, have been placed in B&Bs from the age of 16.
At best, these placements lack the stability and support that vulnerable young people require, and, at worst, they increase the risk faced by young people and place them in greater danger. Children placed in unsuitable accommodation are often faced with drug and alcohol misuse, the threat of violence and abuse, and little, if no, support. The lack of support in such accommodation also means that if children go missing, or do not return home safely, there is no one at home to report their concerns.
Such dangerous practices continue, despite a string of legal judgments, including the Southwark judgment in 2009, which resulted in guidance being issued stating that children’s services were responsible for housinghomeless 16- and 17-year-olds. Most recently, in 2012, the Office of the Children’s Commissioner raised concerns about the placement of 16- and 17-year-olds in hostels, bed and breakfasts, and foyer accommodation when they were at risk of sexual exploitation, having identified that children were being sexually exploited and assaulted by adult residents within such accommodation, as well as being at risk from perpetrators on the streets.
This issues of young people on benefits and their housing options have been discussed many times over the last two years:-
Clegg vows to oppose housing benefit limit for under-25s. HERE
New welfare clampdown could axe housing benefit from under-25s HERE
Housing Benefit to under 35s HERE