Legal threat over homeless children

A growing number of local authorities will be threatened with
legal action for failing to house children when they leave prison,
a leading penal reform charity says.

The Howard League for Penal Reform has a flood of cases from
children who will become homeless when they are released.

Assistant director Chris Callender is working on 10 cases but he
said these were “the tip of the iceberg”.

The charity has brought only two similar cases to the courts
before. It won a landmark ruling in April in the first and struck
an agreement last week before the second reached court. The
children in all 12 cases had care orders from the local authority,
were in care or had contact with social services before being sent
to prison. However, plans for their accommodation on release were
vague or non-existent.

Callender said the judgements would force social services
departments to spend more time and money finding proper

Social services directors acknowledged that some authorities were
failing children when they left custody, but said many others were
doing a good job.

John Coughlan, chair of the Association of Directors of Social
Services children and families committee, said: “Social services
are under huge pressure of delivery on the Children (Leaving Care)
Act 2000. It’s partly resources and also that too many young people
are leaving custody.”

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