September 20 2014 Latest news:
Annabelle Dickson, Political Correspondent
Tuesday, May 13, 2014
Ipswich teenagers leaving care have been left languishing in bed and breakfasts for weeks, an MP has said following a recent visit to the town.
Education select committee member Alex Cunningham said youngsters from Suffolk were being put in “unsafe placements” and were being dragged into the “wrong crowds” following the fact-finding visit as part of a national probe into options for care post-16.
But Suffolk County Council said that the placements were only used in exceptional circumstances, such as night-time family crises or when dealing with cases with very specific requirements, and currently just nine out of 720 young people in care were in B&Bs.
Gordon Jones, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for children’s services, said: “B&B placements are always made for as short a period as possible.
“The use of B&B accommodation is reviewed weekly and has decreased significantly in the last year.
“We will of course continue to monitor this closely so that we can keep the number of placements to a minimum.”
The MP made the comments during a select committee evidence session looking at how suitable and safe alternative accommodation provided by local authorities is.
The Government recently announced a new legal duty on local authorities to financially support every care leaver who wants to stay with their foster parents until their 21st birthday.
But the new law does not apply to young people living in residential children’s homes, or those placed in alternative types of accommodation.
Education committee member Mr Cunningham said during the evidence session said: “We have had young people who have told us they have been left languishing in a bed and breakfast for weeks on end.”
While committee chairman Graham Stuart said he had met children in Suffolk, some who had talked about provisions being “not that fantastic”. “It was mixed, if I remember,” he added.
Denise Hatton, national secretary and chief executive of YMCA England, told the committee: “We have a really good example of what is suitable for 16 and 17-year-olds in particular in Suffolk, where we have purchased a number of houses in residential areas.
“We would have a house with four bedrooms, but it would be supported accommodation, so there would be a trusted adult, on-site, staying overnight and working with those 16 and 17-year-olds to support them.”
The MPs visited YMCA accommodation as part of their visit to Suffolk, but they also saw other providers and met a number of young people.
Angela Thornton, director of accommodation at the YMCA in Suffolk, said that the recently refurbished homes in Norwich Road provided 24-hour-a-day, seven-days-a-week support. The charity has 165 bed spaces across Suffolk.
She said: “We have come away from historic provision across the country when we had people working nine until 5pm or working shifts. We now offer a different model of service.”
She added the visit from the MPs was “all very positive”. “I did not get any negative feedback. The young people and the staff felt they had made a contribution to the way things would move forward. ”