Gatekept homeless teenager accommodated by local housing authority

28 Sep 2023 | Muna Adam

Table of Contents

Miss X, a 17 year old whose details are anonymised to protect her privacy, left her family home in March 2022 following an argument with her step-parent, which resulted in the police being called. Her relationship with her step-parent had been deteriorating over a period of time and she no longer felt safe in the family home. Miss X began sofa-surfing with friends. There was no one else she could stay with and no where else she could go.

Miss X’s case came to the attention of social services in around March 2022. Social services attempted to mediate with Miss X’s family but the family was not cooperative. Miss X told social services she could not go back home and wanted to be accommodated as a child in care. Social services were not helpful – Miss X remembers being told in a meeting with her allocated social worker that “bad things can happen” in care.

Miss X approached us in September 2022 and we immediately wrote an urgent letter to the local housing authority, advising that we would issue urgent judicial review proceedings if the client was not immediately accommodated. Social services spoke to the parents of the friend Miss X was currently staying with, who agreed to accommodate her over the weekend.

Within 3 working days of our letter, Miss X was accommodated by the local housing authority as a child in care. We stayed on the case a little longer to give Miss X advice on her rights as a child in care and to make sure these were upheld. We also wanted to make sure that the local authority would provide her with care-leaver support when she turned 18.

We closed the case with Miss X having a full a care-leaver package of support, thriving, and with intentions to go on to university.

The law is very clear that homeless 16 and 17 year olds ought to be immediately accommodated. Unfortunately, it is all too common that these cases are “gatekept” – young people are turned away or given misleading information about the care system to try and dissuade them from asking for help. Legal action can be very effective very quickly in these types of cases.

The BBC has run a recent article on the problem of homeless children being turned away from services: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-66922341 

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