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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