A piece by Greg Hurst, Social Affairs Editor, in yesterday’s Times:
A homeless boy of 17 ended up emaciated and in detention in a psychiatric hospital after a social worker bought him a tent in which to live.
The official bought the teenager a second tent after the first leaked and he was later moved to a static caravan and then bed and breakfast accommodation, all in breach of the council’s procedures. He lived in a tent for five weeks, during which time he said that he was sexually assaulted by a man in a car, complained of being depressed and lonely living by himself on a campsite, and admitted that he had a cannabis habit that was out of control.
Cornwall council was ordered to pay the boy £2,500 to remedy the “injustice” that he had suffered and to pay £1,500 to his mother for failing to consult her about its plans to support her son, after an inquiry by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.
The boy moved out of his mother’s house in 2014 and went to live with his father in Cornwall, where he was excluded from school at the age of 15 for smoking cannabis and was referred to the local mental health services.
He and his father were evicted from his father’s flat and moved into temporary accommodation. After he suffered a psychotic episode, the council concluded that the boy’s drug use was so heavy that it posed a risk of overdose and death.
The teenager was arrested for drug dealing and assaulted his father. He was released on bail and was moved by the council to secure accommodation but was evicted. The council asked his mother if he could move in with her but she refused because she had two foster children to whom he could be a risk.
A social worker then bought the boy a tent, helped him to pitch it at a campsite and gave him food vouchers, phone top-ups and a torch. The social worker later said that she thought this fulfilled the council’s duty to offer him “a safe and appropriate place” to live. [J4MB emphasis]
After being moved to a static caravan and then supported accommodation in another town he was detained under the Mental Health Act. His mother described him after detention as looking “emaciated”, the ombudsman said. It ordered the council to review its policies “for accommodating homeless 16 and 17-year-olds to comply with statutory guidance”. It added that bed and breakfasts, static caravans and tents were never suitable for young people.
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