Over half of England’s councils have placed care leavers in ‘squalid’ bed and breakfast accommodation for 28 days or more, figures released by Barnardo’s have revealed.
To highlight the problem, the charity’s director, Puja Darbari, spent a night in a bed and breakfast (B&B) where care leavers were placed. She described it as a “squalid and isolating environment” and a “horrible experience”.
Nearly three quarters (73%) of local authorities placed care leavers in B&B accommodation during 2013-2014, with 46% doing so repeatedly.
This meant over 800 care leavers in England were placed in B&B accommodation, according to Freedom of Information Act requests carried out by the charity.
The government’s own guidance on using B&Bs states they should only be used in emergency situations and are unsuitable for young people.
Darbari said: “Having spent the night in a B&B where care leavers have been placed, and having experienced awful conditions, I am horrified that this is how we treat vulnerable young people in desperate need of a place to stay.”
She continued: “From the noise of people right outside the door to the pest control box in the room and sirens wakening me in the middle of the night, it really was a horrible experience.
“I’m a grown woman and I was scared. I can’t begin to imagine how a 16 year old would cope in that situation.”
The room Darbari stayed in had a damp problem, a fire alarm covered by a plastic bag and a broken television set. It was also loud and creaky, keeping her up throughout the night.
This kind of accommodation can be used for care leavers as young as 16, although an education committee report recently called for an outright ban on B&Bs, saying: “B&Bs can present an environment which feels unsafe and threatening to a young person.”