Troubled teens 'abandoned' in B&Bs

SOME of Suffolk's most vulnerable children are being left to fend for themselves in run-down temporary accommodation, including bed and breakfast hotels, an EADT investigation has found.

Anthony Bond

SOME of Suffolk's most vulnerable children are being left to fend for themselves in run-down temporary accommodation, including bed and breakfast hotels, an EADT investigation has found.

One desperate mother has told of the difficulties faced by her 16-year-old son after he was housed by Suffolk County Council social services in B&B and temporary accommodation facilities - despite suffering from debilitating mental health problems since he was 14.

She tells how her son, who has been addicted to cannabis since the age 12 and was sectioned following a drug-induced psychosis two years ago, was placed in a room next to a heroin addict. He has also been mugged, threatened to hang himself and taken heroin during his time in B&B accommodation.

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The Government recently said it was committed to stopping the use of B&Bs for under-18s with junior minister Iain Wright MP saying that it “just succeeds in isolating young people from their family and friends and leaving them vulnerable to exploitation.”

But the EADT has discovered that in 2007/08 there were an average of 17 children a month living in temporary accommodation and B&B facilities in Ipswich.

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In the whole of Suffolk - not including Ipswich - 53 children were placed in temporary accommodation and B&B for the same period.

The teenager's mother, Louise, is now calling for B&B accommodation for children to be made illegal. “I despair for my son's future and I think that something desperately needs to be done for all these children who find themselves in these circumstances. There are lots of children in B&B and I cannot understand how that could happen. They are just given an amount of money and told to get on with it.”

At the age of 14 her son Thomas was sectioned suffering from a drug induced psychosis following an addiction to cannabis since the age of 12.

Because his psychosis made him violent, he was deemed a risk to his brothers and sisters and his mum was told he could no longer live at the family home in a north Suffolk town.

After spending time at various children's units in Suffolk he was placed in B&B accommodation two weeks before his 16th birthday.

“Social services sent him to B&B accommodation in Ipswich but they could not have sent him to a worse place if they tried,” said Louise. “He was surrounded by drug users of all categories and after a week there he was mugged.”

Following this Thomas was moved to a B&B in a north Suffolk town 35 miles away from his family. He was given an amount of money each week to buy food, clothes and pay for transport but the facilities appalled his mum.

“It was totally diabolical,” said Louise. “There were holes and cracks in the windows, no cooking facilities, no washing facilities and water running on the floor. It was so cold that I could not be in the room longer than half an hour. I had to buy him a heater that he could plug into his room.

“He was next to a heroin addict and when I visited I could hear people shouting up from the bottom asking the guy next door for drugs.”

Following complaints by Louise he was moved to another temporary accommodation unit in the same town but with Thomas being miles away from family, out of education and without a job his mental state worsened.

“The worst thing was the isolation and the fact that he had no friends and he went into a complete depression. The accommodation was just absolutely basic and there are heroin users there. It is not a place to put a young lad that has a history of problems anyway and they know that he suffers from depression and that has made it even worse.”

Louise said Thomas pleaded and begged with her not to let him stay in the accommodation and he started to stay with friends instead. Because he failed to sign in and out everyday, Louise was told on Tuesday that he no longer had a place there. Two years after being sectioned suffering from terrible mental health problems, Thomas is now homeless at the age of 16.

His mother says the system has failed him and she despairs for his future.

A spokesman for Suffolk County Council said: “We are not able to discuss individual cases, however many cases are complex and every effort is made to identify and support young people's needs including accommodation.

“We accept that B&B accommodation is not ideal for young people and all vulnerable young people have a full assessment of their needs and wherever possible we provide carer support and supported accommodation.

“We have a protocol in place with district and borough councils to provide the most suitable place for a young person to live. On occasions some young people elect to remain in B&B. There is a County Planning Group that is currently developing resources for young people and this will include supported accommodation.”

n The names of Louise and Thomashave been changed in this article to protect their identity.

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