20 Mar 2015

Councils are failing to protect thousands of vulnerable teenagers in England who face homelessness and who are being left to fend for themselves, according to new research by The Children’s Society.

Getting the House in Order, a new report launched today (Friday 20 March) shows that each year 12,000 homeless 16 and 17-year-olds ask councils for help with housing -  but reveals that almost half are turned away. Councils are breaking the law by failing to even assess them.

More than four in five (80%) homeless 16 and 17-year-olds do not receive accommodation. Almost half (45%) of older homeless teenagers who asked for help did not receive an assessment.

The research based on Freedom of Information Requests - sent to 353 local councils and compiled from 259 responses - also reveals that homeless 16 and 17–year-olds are rarely given the same support as children in care such as access to an advocate or financial support.

Homeless teenagers are left with few options. They 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.

The report shows that even when homeless 16 and 17-year-olds are accommodated housed they face huge risks. Councils placed one in 12 (8%) 16 and 17-year-olds in Bed and Breakfasts (B&Bs), going against government guidance, which regards this type of accommodation as unsuitable. It has been well 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. B&B accommodation should be banned completely and hostels and supported accommodation should be regulated.

The charity is also 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.

Liam Hill, 22, a youth mentor, who now lives in Staffordshire, became homeless aged 16 after his relationship with his mum broke down.

He says: 'I was passed from pillar to post and given no support from the council. They put me in a cramped, cold room in a B&B that had no hot water, then in a hostel where people tried to sell me drugs all the time.

'After an argument with one of the other lads at the hostel, I was chucked out with nowhere to go. It was the middle of the night and pouring with rain and I ended up sleeping in a public toilet. The council then put me back in a hostel. I felt like a piece of rubbish that had been dumped in the first place the council could find, not a teenager in desperate need of support and a safe place to live.'

Matthew Reed, Chief Executive of The Children’s Society, which helps vulnerable young people at risk of child abuse and exploitation, says: 'It is a national disgrace that thousands 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.'


Media enquiries

For further information, please contact Catherine Jones, Senior Media Officer, The Children’s Society
0207 841 4420 or email media@childrenssociety.org.uk. For out-of-hours enquiries please call 07810 796 508.

Notes to Editors

  • The report and The Children’s Society’s full list of recommendations is available on request.
  • The statistics in this report are based on Freedom of Information requests sent to 353 local authorities and the responses from 259 local authorities.
  • The Children’s Society has helped change children’s stories for over a century. We expose injustice and address hard truths, tackling child poverty and neglect head-on. We fight for change based on the experiences of every child we work with and the solid evidence we gather. Through our campaigning, commitment and care, we are determined to give every child in this country the greatest possible chance in life. For more information visit: www.childrenssociety.org.uk