This evening, driving home, I listened to the story of ‘Theo’ on File on 4: My Homeless Son. The story of this vulnerable teenager, set in Cornwall, is horrific, where Theo ended up living in a tent and later a static mobile home. While homeless, he struggled with mental illness, drug addiction and sexual assault.
This case was rightly subject to Ombudsman investigation and is an eye-opener about the fate of homeless teenagers. Cornwall Council accepts the criticisms of its services.
Cornwall Council today accepted the report of the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO) and findings, saying there were several shortfalls in the response of the Council to the situation Mr B was in between August – October 2016. They have apologised to Mr B and to his mother for those failings.
The Council said:
We take on board the recommendations of the LGSCO. Although this was a unique and exceptional case, we will learn from it and do everything we can to prevent it ever happening again.
A great deal has been done since 2016 to develop a range of housing options for homeless young people.
In the last year the Council has worked with over 100 young people aged 16-17 who have been at risk of homelessness or homeless and needing assistance. This is a growing problem nationally.
In these circumstances the Council treats the young person as if they were in care while its children’s and housing services undertake a joint assessment of their needs.
Working with young people in these circumstances is complex and challenging. There are no easy solutions.
In this particular case, there was a breakdown of relationship with his family and we did not have the legal power to take this young person into care against his will.
In these circumstances professionals try to work with a young person as an individual, respect their wishes, develop a relationship with them and persuade them to make more positive choices.
Wherever possible, staff are expected to try to mediate between the young person and their parents to sort out the problem and enable them to return home. In the vast majority of cases, as in this case, this is what the young person wants.
In this case the young person’s bail conditions did not allow him to return to live with his father, who lives in Cornwall. He was found ‘supported lodgings’ while the assessment was undertaken, but unfortunately he was asked to leave. He then refused an offer of foster care.
His mother lives outside Cornwall but felt unable to have him home to live with her. She also felt unable to allow the Council to use her holiday property in Cornwall whilst more suitable and permanent accommodation could be found that was acceptable to him.
The worker supporting him felt it was better for him to stay on a campsite rather than for him to become street homeless, with all the risks that entails. However, this went on for too long and there were several points where the Service could have done more to support him.
Throughout this period Mr B wanted to return home to the care of one of his parents, but despite the efforts of the worker this did not prove possible.
He was finally persuaded to accept specialist, supported accommodation for homeless young people.