Councils turning homeless teenagers away

Children are ending up sleeping on the streets or night buses as local authorities are failing in their duty to protect them, a charity boss says.

Coram Voice director Andrew Radford says councils sometimes fail to assess children at risk of homelessness.

This leaves children returning to abusive homes, sleeping rough or staying with strangers, he says.

The Local Government Association said children's social care was "one of the biggest challenges" facing councils.

Authorities were facing "real difficulties" finding emergency care for vulnerable children because of a "shortage of housing, funding cuts and record numbers entering the care system", an LGA spokesman added.

'Turning them away'

Under the Children's Act, local authority children's services have to assess any child who presents as homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

While an in-depth assessment takes place, the child should be accommodated.

In most cases, they should then be taken into care and treated as a looked-after child.

But Mr Radford says this is not always happening.

He says: "Children are becoming homeless for a variety of reasons. And when that happens, they eventually end up at children's services, who are then supposed to find them somewhere to live and perform an assessment and more than likely take them into care.

Hostel hell

When Elizabeth was 16, she had to leave home because of difficulties with her family.

Social services knew of her situation as she had been "bounced" between friends and family since the age of 12. She was never taken into care.

At first she was moved to a high support hostel place which, despite difficult circumstances, she says she enjoyed.

But soon after, she was moved to another hostel, with no support, where she had to share a bathroom with three adult men.

One of these men would have large groups of friends round, who would sit up all night taking drugs.

Elizabeth says: "I don't mind if people take drugs - that's up to them - but when they are so high that they keep falling against my door - or they are making lots of noise until 04:00, that's hard."

The 16-year-old had to share a bathroom with the men and used to get her towel ripped off her as she walked to and from it by the other residents or their guests.

When she complained to her local council, she was told she could find a room to rent privately, in spite of the fact she was not old enough to sign a tenancy agreement.