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Councils ‘ignoring legal duties to homeless children

Children’s charity Coram and its solicitor partners have accused cash-strapped councils of ‘Rotherham-type’ child protection failures for wilfully neglecting their legal duties to vulnerable teenagers.

This is the key finding of ‘The Door Is Closed’, a report issued by Coram Voice, a charity that which supports homeless children. In 2013-14, Coram Voice helped over 200 children and young people to challenge decisions by children’s services which had led to them becoming homeless.

Under the Children Act, councils’ children’s services have an obligation to assess any child who presents as homeless or at risk of immediate homelessness. The child should be accommodated while the assessment is being carried out and, in most cases, should then be taken into care.

Instead, Coram Voice alleges that councils were often telling children to go back to their families or leave them to ‘sofa surf’. When these options are not available, children can be passed to the council housing department which will find them accommodation, often in hostels for vulnerable adults and without any of the extra support needed by children in care.

The report emerged from a programme in which Coram Voice works with the New Horizon Youth Centre in London and a group of solicitors. The programme is forcing councils to reopen cases, give homeless young adults their care status retrospectively, and so provide them with housing while starting to tackle problems they face as they make the transition from a life on the streets.

Report available here: http://www.coram.org.uk/