Increasing numbers of care leavers in unsuitable accommodation

By Neil Puffett and Adam Offord

| 11 February 2016

Increasing numbers of care leavers are being placed in "unsuitable accommodation", it has emerged.

Children’s minister Edward Timpson released the statistics in response to a parliamentary question.

Figures released in parliament show that 1,840 care leavers were in unsuitable accommodation in 2015 compared with 1,660 in 2014 – a rise of 10.8 per cent.

Unsuitable accommodation can include bed and breakfasts (B&Bs) or hostels where young people may end up sharing with adults with complex issues.

The statistics, which were released by children’s minister Edward Timpson in response to a question by SNP MP Stuart McDonald, show that there were a total of 22,850 care leavers aged between 19 and 21 in some form of accommodation in 2015.

This compares with 22,230 in 2014, an increase of 2.8 per cent. The number of care leavers placed in “suitable accommodation” rose by 2.1 per cent from 20,570 in 2014 to 21,010 in 2015.

Concerns about children being placed in unsuitable accommodation have been raised previously.

An investigation by Barnardo’s in 2014 found that more than half of English councils place young people leaving care in unsuitable accommodation for long periods.

More than half (51 per cent) of councils told the charity they placed teenagers in B&Bs for a month or more in 2013/14. 

Under government guidance, councils should only use B&Bs in an emergency when a young person needs urgent help.

The Chartered Institute of Housing has previously said that unsuitable accommodation can lead to increased public spending on health, youth justice and welfare down the line.

Carrie Wilson, young people’s project co-ordinator at The Care leavers’ Association, said it is disappointing that the government has not banned the use of B&Bs for young people leaving care.

“On a basic level [B&Bs] are seen as a “safe” place, but those young people do not feel safe," she said.

“Regardless of the interventions put into place to support a young person, if they do not feel like they have personal safety at the end of the day, their coping mechanisms start to break down.”

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