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Council admits unlawful practice in turning away homeless children from care

Essex County Council breaches duty under Children Act section 20

Essex County Council has admitted operating a flawed practice of turning homeless children away from care in breach of section 20 of the Children Act 1989, following a successful judicial review challenge brought on behalf of a 16-year-old homeless child, D, by Coram Children's Legal Centre (CCLC).
The court challenge initiated by CCLC related to the Essex Young People's Partnership (EYPP), a housing gateway introduced by Essex County Council's Social Services Department in June 2017. The EYPP is understood to be a gateway through which homeless children and young adults who are at risk of homelessness can access accommodation whilst accessing support in a supported living arrangement.

However, CCLC's case work in D's case, and that of other homeless children, revealed that Essex County Council was using the EYPP gateway to avoid assuming duties of care to 16 and 17-year-old homeless children, diverting them away from the protections and benefits of long-term social care support. Essex was doing this without informing the children of their rights and entitlements as 'looked after' children under sections 20 and 22 Children Act 1989.

The council has apologised for its failures and said that in future decisions as to the type of accommodation to be provided in accordance with section 20 of the Children Act 1989 are now being made without any involvement of the EYPP. It has also embarked on training of its social workers involved in assessing 16 and 17-year-old children to ensure they are aware of the range of accommodation that can be provided and the support they can receive.

For a full report of the case on the Coram Children's Legal Centre website, click here.