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Practice of housing care leavers in B&Bs must be stopped, says committee

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Practice of housing care leavers in B&Bs must be stopped, says committee

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Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Central Government and also in Communities, Education, Housing

Practice of housing care leavers in B&Bs must be stopped, says committee Practice of housing care leavers in B&Bs must be stopped, says committee

The Education Committee has recommended that local authorities must stop housing young care leavers in B&Bs.

As the committee launched its report examining 16 plus care options, the chair Graham Stuart said: "Despite the Department for Education's (DfE) assertion that B&Bs are not considered to be suitable, they continue to be used. The current guidance against the use of this type of accommodation, which far from being merely unsuitable can feel threatening and frightening to a young person, is clearly not enough."

The committee has said that the DfE should "consult urgently" with local authorities to determine a reasonable timeframe for an outright on B&B usage.

In the meantime, the message that B&Bs are not suitable and should only be used in extreme, emergency situations must be reiterated, the committee said.

Mr Stuart added: "While we strongly endorse the current Staying Put policy, it applies only to looked after young people living in foster care. Yet those in a residential children’s home are often the most vulnerable and in need of extended support. We recommend that Staying Put be extended to residential children’s home so that all young people can benefit from the much needed stability this policy brings."

The report also calls for:

• The DfE to ensure that looked after young people approaching independence are fully and effectively informed of their rights and entitlements and given a genuine choice of accommodation.
• Clearer and stronger guidance to the effect that local authorities consider, as a first option, carers and professionals with whom a young person has an established relationships as a personal adviser.
• An alteration to pathway planning guidance so as specifically to include relationships with siblings.
• Local authorities to report to the DfE on their use of B&B accommodation for looked after young people.
• Leaving care services to be extended to the age of 25, without exception.
• The DfE to remind all local authorities of their statutory duty to postpone any unnecessary and disruptive placement change during Key Stage 4.
• A duty upon local authorities to ensure that a young person’s transition out of care is also postponed until after the end of an academic year following a given birthday.
• The DfE to issue explicit guidance on young people’s right to stay in ‘other arrangements’ until they are 21.
• The DfE to examine models of staying close and, if they are shown to improve young people’s outcomes, issue best practice guidance on such models for situations in which a young person’s preference is to stay close rather than stay put.


The committee's findings have been backed by the homelessness charity Crisis. Chief executive Leslie Morphy said: “It is completely unacceptable that young people should be placed in unregulated, unsuitable and unsafe accommodation such as B&Bs. It is little wonder that so many vulnerable care leavers end up on the streets – our research shows that one in four homeless people have been in care as children.

“We cannot continue to fail our young people in this way. More must be done to ensure the safety and well-being of young people in care, including that they are housed safely and securely. Young people should not be forced out of care before they’re ready and must be properly supported to make the transition into adulthood. We urge the government to listen to this cross party verdict.”

Children's charity Coram has also welcomed the report.

Renuka Jeyarajah-Dent, director of operations, said: “We know all too well from our work in advocacy, supported housing and legal support, how pressing the need is for children and young people to be able to move into adulthood, work and education, seamlessly and safely. However, all too often this transition for young care leavers has been abrupt, and bewildering.

"Our growing concern is the rise in homelessness that we are seeing among young people leaving care. Coram is finding that local authority children’s services are refusing to designate young people leaving care as care leavers – a status which confers entitlements, including to housing support. And because they don’t have care leaver status, they are not entitled to access their local authority’s advocacy support.

"So many then find themselves living in unregulated supported accommodation, others find themselves homeless; rough sleeping or sleeping on the sofas of people they barely know. For this already vulnerable group, the situation is unacceptable.

"Coram supports these young people to overturn their local authority’s decisions and get somewhere safe to live. We call on all local authorities to recognise their responsibilities to all the children and young people in their care, so that fewer suffer the distress of homelessness in the future.

"Finally, we particularly encourage local authorities to take note of the Committee’s reminder that they have a duty to commission independent advocacy services. Advocacy provides a safety net for children in care and care leavers. But in too many cases, authorities are ignoring this duty, leaving vulnerable young people with nowhere to turn to when things go wrong.”

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