Hammersmith and Fulham council allegedly failed to support a 17-year-old pregnant girl on her release from custody, the House of Lords heard today.
The Howard League for Penal Reform, representing the girl who is now 19, claims she was placed in a string of “unsafe” bed and breakfasts by the housing department where she lived a”chaotic” life and committed criminal offences.
The girl, who is subject to an anonymity order and known as M, had been made homeless without support from her family home by her terminally ill mother who was unable to cope, the Howard League claims.
She had been released from custody after serving two months of a four-month Detention and Training Order for breach of a supervision order.
The Howard League argues that Hammersmith and Fulham Council failed to assess whether M was a child who required a home and support under the provisions of the Children Act 1989.
At the start of the two-day hearing in the House of Lords today, director of the Howard League Frances Crook said the case highlighted the “nationwide failure” of local authorities to provide appropriate support and accommodation for children leaving custody.
She added: “What can we expect of vulnerable children leaving custody, if we do not ensure they receive the care required to rebuild their lives? The vast majority of these children have difficult family backgrounds, with histories of abuse and neglect, while many also suffer mental health issues and addictions to drugs or alcohol.
“Considering that over three quarters of juveniles reoffend on leaving custody, this is not simply an issue of a child’s rights and our decency as a society but also an issue of public protection.”
Hammersmith and Fulham Council’s cabinet member for children’s services, Antony Lillis, said: “The council’s approach in this complicated area has been backed in two previous court hearings and we are confident of our position. We will be as interested as anyone if the House of Lords changes the legal position on this.”
A decision on the case is expected within the next few months.