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13.08.15

Ombudsman warns councils not to house young people in B&Bs

The Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) has reiterated that the use of B&B accommodation by councils is not suitable to house young homeless people – even in an emergency. 

Following an investigation into Lancashire County Council, after a vulnerable teenager with significant behavioural problems was housed by the local authority in a B&B when his home life broke down, the LGO has made several recommendations in a report published today

The teenager spent five days in B&B accommodation, but during that time the council did not carry out a new assessment of his needs – something it is required to do by statutory guidance on homeless young people. 

The council did not realise that in providing him with accommodation it was treating him as a ‘looked after child’. The duties to looked after children are very specific and he should not have been allowed to stay in a B&B, or without significant support. The first time the council visited him at the B&B was two days into his stay. 

Lancashire has been told to improve its policy for homeless 16 and 17-year-olds to include reference to B&B accommodation ‘not being suitable even in an emergency’ and to ensure its children’s services staff are aware of this. 

It must also review whether it is meeting its duty regarding the provision of sufficient accommodation for its looked after children. 

All the recommendations have been accepted by the council, according to the LGO.  

Dr Jane Martin, the LGO, said that after issuing the focus report, ‘No place like home: Councils’, use of unsuitable bed & breakfast accommodation for homeless families and young people’ in October 2013 “it is troubling that I am still reporting on individual cases like this”. 

She said: “I am particularly concerned that the council is struggling to meet its obligation to have sufficient appropriate accommodation, and is therefore unable to confirm this situation would not arise again.

“The publication of this report gives local councillors the opportunity to ask questions of their authority to establish whether it can accommodate vulnerable homeless young people like the teenager involved here.”

A spokesperson for Lancashire CC said: “When young people are in danger of becoming homeless we do all we can to ensure they are kept safe, including arranging temporary accommodation to keep them off the streets.

 “Following on from the recent complaint, the Ombudsman has recommended that we review some of our processes. We have put together an action plan and are working with our partners to make the improvements they have suggested.”

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