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Councils putting teenagers at risk by failing to assess housing needs

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Councils putting teenagers at risk by failing to assess housing needs

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Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Local Government and also in Care and Support, Housing

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Local authorities across England are failing to properly house 16 and 17-year-olds, a new report has claimed.

Charity Homeless Link's study - 'No Excuses' - reveals 161 English councils were collectively approached an estimated 14,000 times in 2012/13 by 16 and 17-year-olds who needed help with housing.

And, contrary to statutory guidance, of those provided with accommodation, 8% were housed in B&Bs and 9% in shared accommodation with adults.

According to the report, many councils also appear not to be meeting their legal obligations towards teenagers.

The 2009 House of Lords Southwark ruling obliges council children’s services to assess the needs of homeless 16 and 17-year-olds to ensure they get accommodation and support if they need it.

Analysis of data provided by the 161 councils indicates that 59% of young people who approached councils with housing needs in 2012/13 were not referred directly to children’s services, and fewer than half were referred to children’s services at any time during their homelessness assessment.

No Excuses highlights that most 16 and 17-year-olds become homeless because of a breakdown in relationships with family or friends.

The report also outlines the range of other complex problems which homeless young people often experience, such as substance misuse, mental health issues or not being in education, training or employment.

These are issues which, the report suggests, if left unsupported are likely to make it even harder for young people to get the help they need and could result in more problems in later life, including homelessness.

No Excuses makes a number of recommendations and calls council children’s services to take urgent action.

Rick Henderson, Homeless Link’s chief executive, said: “The research and findings of this report emphasise the vital importance of providing immediate, effective support to vulnerable young people. The effects of homelessness upon 16 and 17-year-olds can have a massively negative impact on the path their life takes, yet too many local authorities are failing young people when they are most in need.

“Our partners in the sector are leading the way with innovative and effective programmes to support young people and help them get their lives back on track. We strongly encourage local authorities to follow these good examples and act now to ensure young people receive the help they need and are entitled to.”

The councils' data was released after a freedom of information request.

Homeless Link's report is also backed by homeless charities Centrepoint, YMCA England, St.Basil’s and Depaul UK.

Martin Houghton-Brown, Depaul UK's chief executive, said: “Homeless Link’s report highlights a worrying state of affairs and one which must not continue.

"Depaul UK has long been concerned that guidance put in place to safeguard the wellbeing of 16 and 17-year-old young homeless people is not being followed by all local authorities, resulting in young people being placed in unsuitable accommodation such as B&Bs and shared accommodation with adults."

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