The law requires that councils place children in their care into safe accommodation suitable for their needs, which are usually foster homes or supported lodgings with live-in workers on site. Guidance stipulates that under-18s should never be left living by themselves in bed and breakfast rooms.
However, government cuts have left councils cash-strapped and without the means to provide all children in their care with decent accommodation. Every child deserves to grow-up in a safe, secure, and loving environment but too many young people are currently being failed by our underfunded care system.
Since the Tories came to power, the number of children in care living by themselves has risen dramatically. In 2010 there were 2,420 16-17-year-olds in independent living placements without live-in support but by 2018 this had increased by 28% to 3,090.
Back in 2010, local authorities informed the government that they would need additional funding to properly house young people in care but were told that no extra money was available. Then, just last month, Ofsted warned the government that cuts were leading to a decline in the quality of children’s services.
FOI requests have now established that, over the past two years, four local authorities have placed up to 14 children in caravan parks and 17 councils have placed up to 133 children in bed and breakfast rooms. Clearly, young people should not be growing-up by themselves in these places, where they are left at serious risk of abuse and exploitation.
Young people who’ve lived in such places have spoken of being scared to use the shared bathroom at night, of being left with no shower or wash facilities, of drug use, and, in some cases, of being afraid to wear their school uniform around other residents.
This week, I submitted questions to the government asking what resources are available to local authorities to ensure that all 16 and 17-year-olds are housed in suitable accommodation. I await the government’s reply and will continue to press Ministers to provide all young people with the support they need.