Centrepoint sounds alarm over fate of teenagers as B&B priorities shift

Pressure on councils to move families out of bed and breakfast
accommodation has taken attention away from 16 and 17 year olds
living in similar conditions, homeless charities have warned.

Centrepoint said that councils were reshuffling priority groups
following the introduction in April of the six-week time limit on
housing families in B&B accommodation, and may have been
prevented from looking for suitable alternatives for other
vulnerable groups.

The charity believes placing 16 to 17 year olds in B&B
accommodation could put them at “serious risk of abuse”, and is
urging the government to set targets to end the practice.

The call follows publication of statistics for the first quarter of
2004, which include the number of single vulnerable people placed
in B&Bs.

At least 17 local authorities have been identified as placing more
than 100 vulnerable people, including 16 17 year olds, in B&Bs
since January this year.

The worst London councils include Westminster (513 of whom 60 are
16 or 17 year olds), Lambeth (347, of whom 84 are 16 or 17 year
olds) and Camden (297). Outside London, Brighton and Hove placed
200 (26 of whom are 16 or 17 year olds), Bristol 178, and Redbridge
133 (of whom 16 are 16 or 17 year olds).

Centrepoint is also calling for housing departments to work more
closely with the voluntary sector and social services departments
to ensure the needs of the vulnerable are met because the process
“is patchy in some areas”.

Services director Rebecca Pritchard said that although the Children
Act 1989 required social services to undertake child in need
assessments, and the Homelessness Act 2002 stated that homeless 16
and 17 year olds should be considered priority for rehousing by
councils, “a lack of co-ordination between the departments could
lead to homeless 16 and 17 year olds being passed from pillar to
post and straight into the cycle of homelessness”.

Crisis, which is due to launch its Hidden Homeless report later
this month, added: “While 16 to 17 year olds are a particularly
vulnerable group, it would be important that a target to reduce the
number of single homeless people staying in B&Bs be extended to
cover all of those affected by this problem.”

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