Provider ‘placing young asylum seekers in sub-standard housing’

Sandwell Council has accused a housing provider of placing unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in sub-standard accommodation and raised concerns about out-of-area placements.

The West Midlands authority has written to all councils in England detailing its concerns about Principal Housing Care’s accommodation, urging them to think again about using the provider.

The move follows Sandwell’s discovery that other councils had placed more than 200 unaccompanied asylum seekers, aged 16 and over – some of whom had children of their own – with the provider in its area.

The letter said a number of the properties used by the provider were “sub-standard” and that Sandwell had “serious concerns about the care and well-being of the young people living in them”. The council has removed the 12 young people it had placed with the provider.

The council also requested details of any unaccompanied minors in Sandwell placed by authorities with other housing providers. But it pointed out that this “does not detract in any way from your statutory duty to safeguard/support any children you have placed outside of your own authority”.

The council said the problem was a national issue and that it would write to John Coughlan, joint president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, to explore how to “establish a co-ordinated and monitored approach”.

In addition, it is seeking government guidance on monitoring of the placements of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children and other vulnerable groups. It also wants advice on sharing information. A meeting is planned this week with the Commission for Social Care Inspec­tion.

Principal Housing Care, which is based in West Bromwich, was unavailable for comment.

Out of area problems

In May 2004 Kent Council threatened to name and shame about a dozen local authorities in London and the South East which it accused of using the county as a “dumping ground” for looked-after children. Peter Gilroy, then Kent’s director of social services, wrote to the then children’s minister Margaret Hodge arguing it was hard for councils to monitor children from such a distance.

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