One in three homeless 16 and 17 year olds who were working with youth offending teams had been placed in unsafe or unsuitable accommodation, according to a report published last week.

The report, Accommodation of Homeless 16 and 17 year old children working with Youth Offending Teams, reflects the findings of a recent inspection by HM Inspectorate of Probation. 

It found that all local authorities had documented assessment pathways to assess children’s needs, but the process and quality of assessment differed considerably. Not all local authorities routinely considered the need to provide accommodation under section 20 of the Children Act 1989.  

Inspectors were particularly concerned about the risks those sharing hostel or bed and breakfast accommodation with adult strangers were exposed to.

The report comes several years after the landmark case of R (G) v London Borough of Southwark [2009] UKHL 26, which made clear that homeless 16 and 17 year olds must be offered support and accommodation from children’s services, under section 20 of the Children Act 1989, and not simply told to report to the housing department and be provided with accommodation under housing legislation.

According to the report, the shortcomings appeared to come from poor or incomplete assessment, a lack of joined-up working or recognition of children’s wider needs, and a tendency to place children as though they were adults. Inspectors also found that the range of suitable accommodation provision was limited and this resulted in some children being placed in accommodation that did not meet their needs.

Inspectors made recommendations to Directors of Children’s Social Care Services in England, including: 

  • ensuring that the accommodation provided for homeless 16 and 17 year olds is safe and appropriate to their individual and assessed needs;
  • ensuring that homeless 16 and 17 year olds are not placed in accommodation alongside adults who may pose a risk of harm to them;
  • that the vulnerability of homeless 16 and 17 year olds is fully recognised by staff and services are tailored to their individual needs;
  • and that children’s social care services routinely include youth offending team (YOT) case managers in joint assessment and planning where relevant.