Essex denies failure to house teenagers

    A council is fighting off claims at the High Court that it has
    flouted its statutory duty to house vulnerable teenagers.

    The Children’s Legal Centre at the University of Essex has accused
    Essex Council of failing to provide suitable housing for four
    vulnerable teenagers, thereby shunning its responsibilities under
    the Children Act 1989.

    All four children aged between 16 and 17, who cannot be named for
    legal reasons, come from troubled backgrounds. They are escaping
    physical violence or have parents with alcohol or drug
    problems.

    Barrister Carolyn Hamilton asked the judge to give three of them
    permission to seek judicial review of the council’s failure to find
    them somewhere to live.

    Justice Munby then heard the case of the fourth – a 17-year-old
    girl who had already won the right to a full hearing.

    The girl, who the judge heard had tried to kill herself three times
    when in bed and breakfast accommodation and had also swallowed
    bleach and taken drugs, had been left “sofa surfing” and extremely
    vulnerable.

    Essex Council denied doing anything wrong and told the court it had
    made every effort to help the children.

    Barrister Andrew Sharland said that, in relation to the 17-year-old
    girl, the council had taken “all reasonable steps to find
    accommodation” and was trying “extremely hard” to meet her
    needs.

    Justice Munby reserved his decision on the girl’s case and the
    three applications for judicial review until a later date.

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