Councils in breach of homeless youth ruling, survey reveals

Councils are failing to provide homeless 16 and 17-year-olds with accommodation and support, despite having a legal obligation to do so, new research has found.

A survey of 99 councils by Inside Housing magazine has revealed only 27% of 6,677 homeless 16 and 17-year-olds had their support needs assessed during the first 10 months of 2010. It also found more than 3,400 vulnerable teenagers were housed in unsupported accommodation between 2007 and 2010.

This violates the Southwark Judgement, handed down by the Law Lords in May 2009, that obliges children’s services to provide accommodation and support to all homeless 16 and 17-year-olds.

Carolyn Hamilton, director of the Children’s Legal Centre, told Inside Housing that the survey results were “very worrying”. “It is extremely rare for this vulnerable group simply to need a roof over their heads,” she said.

The Southwark Judgement was made in the case of G, a 17-year-old who had fallen out with his mother and was made homeless. He was sleeping on friends’ floors. After seeking legal advice, he demanded that Southwark Council’s children’s services department provide him with accommodation and support under section 20 of the Children Act 1989. The case went to the Law Lords who ruled that councils had a duty to provide support as well as accommodation to homeless 16 and 17-year-olds whose family support networks have disintegrated.

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