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70 per cent of local authorities place care leavers in B & Bs

Barnardo’s launches new guidance for local authorities

New figures released by Barnardo's show that over half of local authorities in England are placing children leaving care in sometimes dangerous and frightening environments for long periods of time.

Government guidance on B&B use by local authorities states that this type of accommodation is unsuitable. It also states that it should only to be used in an emergency, when a young person finds themselves in dire need of a roof over their head. However, Barnardo's has figures, through a Freedom of Information request, which show that:

On receipt of these figures Puja Darbari, a Barnardo's Director, went undercover for one night at one of the B&Bs where young care leavers are placed.   Commenting on the research findings, Ms Darbari said:

"Having spent the night in a B&B where care leavers have been placed and having experienced awful conditions, I am horrified that this is how we treat vulnerable young people in desperate need of a place to stay. From the noise of people right outside the door to the pest control box in the room and sirens wakening me in the middle of the night, it really was a horrible experience.  I'm a grown woman and I was scared.  I can't begin to imagine how a 16 year old would cope in that situation.

"Many of these young people have already had horrific childhoods. Surely we owe them more than placing them on their own in such squalid and isolating environment, against government guidelines. 

"We recognise that local authorities are working with limited budgets but they need a range of other ways of providing emergency accommodation. Our new guidance for local authorities and our Beyond Care campaign aims to help councillors provide better support to care leavers."

In July 2014 the Commons Select Committee on Education published its report Into independence, not out of care: 16 plus care options in which it called for an outright ban on placing care leavers in B&Bs and recommended that the DfE consult urgently with local authorities on a reasonable timeframe in which to introduce this, alongside a strengthened requirement for local authorities to commission sufficient alternative emergency facilities.

Barnardo's has launched new guidance for local authorities, as part of its 'Beyond Care' campaign, which pinpoints particular areas that should be addressed and offers advice.  It is hoped by the charity that the guidance will help offer better alternatives and meet the housing needs of care leavers.  Although some local authorities are already offering better options such as crash-pads, Night Stop and supported lodgings, the charity is calling for them to only resort to offering care leavers B&B accommodation in emergency situations and as a last resort.

To view Barnardo's undercover video, read its guidelines for local authorities and/or to become involved, please click here.