Councils flouting their legal duty to support homeless teenagers

Four years on from the landmark Southwark ruling, more than half of homeless teens are being failed when they ask councils for help (Pic posed by models)

Young runaways
Picture posed by models; Credit: Amanda Knapp/Rex Features

Nearly 60% of homeless teenagers who appeal to councils for help are denied the assessment and support to which they are legally entitled, according to research published today.

The charity Homeless Link analysed data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, which revealed 14,000 16 and 17-year-olds asked 161 councils for help in 2012-13 after becoming homeless.

While 59% of the young people were not given the support and assessment councils are legally obliged to provide, 17% were placed in unsuitable accommodation 8% in B&Bs and 9% in shared accommodation with adults.

A report by the charity, No Excuses, urges councils to review their responses to homeless young people or risk their safety and future life chances. It highlights the range of complex problems homeless young people often face, including substance misuse and mental health issues, and makes recommendations for those local authorities not following statutory guidance.

Since the 2009 Southwark Judgement, local authorities have had a legal duty to assess the needs of homeless 16 and 17-year-olds and make sure they are provided with accommodation and support if they need it.

“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,” said Homeless Link chief Rick Henderson.

Local authorities dispute report’s claims

“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,” Henderson said.

But Cllr David Simmonds, chair of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board, said the report was wrong to suggest young adults are being failed by their council unless they receive an immediate social services referral.

“Where there has been a fallout within the family, councils will always seek to work with their parents to resolve any issues before making a formal social services assessment,” Simmonds said.

“Some of those requesting housing will be young people already in the care system who are now seeking greater independence. And in some cases, teenagers will come in with their mums and dads to find out what housing support may be available to them.”

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