Hundreds of North East homeless teenagers are being left to fend for themselves, research shows.
A report, launched by The Children’s Society today, shows that across the region an estimated 300 teenagers aged 16 and 17 ask their local authority for emergency help with housing each year – but almost half are turned away and left to fend for themselves without even having their needs assessed.
The research based on Freedom of Information requests – sent to 353 local councils across England – also reveals that homeless 16-17-year-olds are rarely given the same support as children in care, such as access to an advocate or financial support.
Matthew Reed, chief executive of The Children’s Society, said:
“It is a disgrace that hundreds of vulnerable teenagers, who may have escaped physical or sexual abuse at home, have gone to their council to get help in finding a safe home, only to be turned away.
“These teenagers are being hung out to dry. Few have the money or resources to find new accommodation and their options are limited. At best they might rely on the goodwill of friends or family, at worst they may be forced to return to an unsafe home or to live on the streets. They are facing huge dangers from predators who seek to abuse or exploit them. Councils need to do much more to protect these vulnerable teenagers. Every teenager deserves a safe place to live.”
Research finds that homeless teenagers may be sent back to homes where there is violence or left rootless with no permanent home, facing threats of sexual abuse or being driven into crime.
Councils across England place hundreds of teenagers in Bed and Breakfasts (B&Bs) each year, going against government guidance which regards this type of accommodation as unsuitable.
It has been documented that B&Bs and hostels used to accommodate homeless people are targeted by sexual predators and drug dealers.
Even where teenagers are housed in supported accommodation, the reality is that it may not be suitable as it is not inspected and is unregulated.
The Children’s Society is calling for councils to join up their services and make sure that all teenagers who seek help for homelessness are assessed and given adequate support. They are also calling for B&B accommodation to be banned and hostels and supported accommodation to be regulated.
The charity is lobbying the government to make sure councils identify vulnerable 16 and 17-year-olds seeking help for homelessness, and provide them with flexible support and the same protection as care leavers.
Across England, an estimated 12,000 homeless 16 and 17-year-olds ask councils for help with housing each year – but more than 5,000 are turned away.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 20 Mar 2015
The true scale of homelessness in the North East is much higher than official figures show, a report by a leading think tank argues today.
Official figures identify only a fraction of homeless households, according to IPPR North.
But others are forced to live in temporary accommodation including privately-run hostels which might lack heating, proper sanitation or security – and where tenants risk being abused or exploited by landlords, or even forced to carry out unpaid work to avoid being evicted.
The report is based partly on an earlier study by the North East Regional Homelessness Group which involves 12 local authorities in the region as well as community groups.
Official figures show that 44 households were officially accepted as homeless by Newcastle City Council over three months. This means the council accepted it was under a legal duty to provide them with accommodation.
In County Durham the figure was 62 households, in Northumberland it was 48, in Gateshead it was 39, in Sunderland it was 25, in North Tyneside it was 42 and in South Tyneside it was also 42.
But many people who have no permanent home are excluded from the figures because they are not classed as being in “priority need”. Typically, this will mean that they are 18 or older and do not have children.
They may be pushed into bed and breakfast accommodation or shared accommodation living with strangers.
The true scale of the problem is unknown. A report produced by the North East Homelessness Think Tank highlights the fact that local authorities are not expected to maintain figures for people in this situation, or track what happens to them.
But IPPR North argues that official figures “only identify a fraction” of households in temporary accommodation.
The report warns:
“Research undertaken in the North East region of England has detailed unacceptable standards in various aspects of premises management, including poor security and poor buildings maintenance, shower and toilet facilities being out of order for long periods of time, poor heating, and repeated incidents of drug-related violence on the premises.
“The research also identified widespread abusive management practice, including tenants having their cash cards and benefits books confiscated by proprietors, being forced to share rooms with strangers, being locked out of the premises for long periods, and being charged for services which were not provided.”
Research by the North East Regional Homelessness Group also found examples of people being required to carry out unpaid work for landlords under threat of eviction, sexual abuse and exploitation of vulnerable residents and people being locked out of their accommodation from early morning until late evening.
Housing consultant Sheila Spencer, one of the North East Homelessness Think Tank’s researchers, said:
“Generally speaking the very worst accommodation is occupied by people who have no choice but to be there.
“And some of it is absolutely appalling. You would be horrified by what goes on in some places.”
But the people affected often receive very little help, she said.
“There is a complete lack of support to help people get out of that situation, or to show them how to get drug or alcohol services.”
The North East Homelessness Think Tank was trying to persuade the Government and local authorities to collect more data about single homeless people, she said.
“We need to know how many are living in the worst situations.”
Bill Davies, IPPR North Research Fellow, said:
“There is very little good statistical data for the hidden homeless. Limited research has been conducted on them and their precarious lives go largely unrecorded by research organisations or public authorities.
“As a hidden population, their numbers are difficult to estimate but the scale of the problem is likely to be substantial.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 11 Dec 2014
Every MP should go through a criminal check to ensure they are fit to work with children, the Commons has been told.
North East MP Helen Goodman called for MPs to go through the same sorts of checks as teachers or youth workers.
She was speaking as Home Secretary Theresa May announced two inquiries into historic claims of child abuse.
Mrs May said Government would set up an independent inquiry panel of experts in the law and child protection to consider whether public bodies have done enough to protect children from sexual abuse.
She said: “In recent years, we have seen appalling cases of organised and persistent child sex abuse. This includes abuse by celebrities like Jimmy Savile and Rolf Harris, as well as the systematic abuse of vulnerable girls in Derby, Rochdale, Oxford and other towns and cities. Some of these cases have exposed a failure by public bodies to take their duty of care seriously and some have shown that the organisations responsible for protecting children from abuse – including the police, social services and schools – have failed to work together properly.”
She added: “The Government will establish an independent inquiry panel of experts in the law and child protection to consider whether public bodies – and other non-state institutions – have taken seriously their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse.”
The inquiry would be a non-statutory panel inquiry, similar to the Hillsbrough inquiry which reported back in 2012.
At the same time, Peter Wanless, the chief executive of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, will lead a review into information provided to the Home Office about child abuse allegations.
It will look at claims that the Home Office failed to act on allegations of abuse provided to the department by the late Geoffrey Dickens, who was an MP from 1979 to 1995.
Speaking in the Commons, Mrs Goodman, MP for Bishop Auckland, said MPs often worked with children and should undergo Criminal Records Bureau checks, known as CRB or DBS checks, to ensure they are not a threat.
She said: “In the course of doing constituency case work, every member of this house will come across vulnerable adults and children. Does the Home Secretary agree with me that Members of Parliament and caseworkers should undergo CRB checks?
“We’ve legislated for this for everybody else in similar positions of responsibilty. Isn’t it time that we did so in this House too?”
Mrs May said this was an issue the inquiry could consider.
North West Durham MP Pat Glass asked for assurances that the inquiry would be able to look at files held by the police or security services.
The announcement in the House of Commons came after Prime Minister David Cameron promised to leave “no stone unturned” in seeking the truth about widespread allegations of a paedophile ring with links to the establishment in the 1980s.
A series of allegations have emerged that Rochdale Liberal MP Cyril Smith, who died in 2010, abused vulnerable children.
An inquiry last month reported horrific abuse by television celebrity Jimmy Savile at Leeds General Infirmary and London hospital Broadmoor.
The Government’s inquiry could be converted into a full public inquiry if its chairman feels it is necessary.
Source – Newcastle Journal, 07 July 2014