A council has breached policy by placing vulnerable young people in bed and breakfasts, the Derbyshire Times can exclusively reveal.
Derbyshire County Council said it had housed 16 to 18-year-olds in B&B accommodation on ‘a small number of temporary occasions’ – contravening its own guidelines.
The authority made the admission to the Derbyshire Times after a children’s worker claimed vulnerable teenagers were being placed in ‘very dodgy’ B&Bs alongside alcoholics and drug addicts.
“I’m incredibly concerned for these young people’s welfare,” the employee said.
The council stressed the teenagers were ‘safe and well’ – but refused to comment on whether they were in B&Bs at the same time as alcoholics and drug addicts.
A council spokesman said: “We do have a policy that we don’t place young people in B&Bs and we work extremely hard to ensure we don’t have to do this.
“However, due to a shortage of suitable accommodation, there have been occasions when in an emergency or at very short notice we have had to do this as a temporary measure as it has been the only option.
“On the small number of occasions when we have had to use B&Bs we use ones that we are familiar with and that we have an established relationship with.
“Our staff also provide safeguards by carrying out regular visits to ensure the young people are safe and well.
“These are always short-term solutions and while we work to try to find more suitable accommodation – for example, in a residential home or with a foster carer – we always keep in regular contact with the young person and they have a dedicated social worker who they can speak to at any time.
“This is not about cuts as it can cost more to place young people in B&Bs – and we are working hard to try to extend the accommodation we have available, including our ongoing campaign to recruit more foster carers across the county.”
On the back of this, the Derbyshire Times asked the council:
• does the council vet the B&Bs and is it certain there are no alcoholics and drug addicts in them?
The authority’s spokesman refused to answer this question but responded: “Derbyshire County Council does not believe it is appropriate for children to be placed in B&B accommodation.
“This only happens on the rare occasions when we have a 16 to 18-year-old needing emergency accommodation, when all potential family options have been exhausted and when no other suitable accommodation is immediately available.
“To prevent it happening regularly, this decision can only be taken with the approval and monitoring of a director or assistant director of children’s services.
“The numbers are consequently very small and very short-term and in those cases close monitoring, regular visiting and agreed support are put in place.
“It is a priority for us to ensure we have sufficient appropriate accommodation for young people aged 16 and above and we are continuing to work with providers to ensure good quality places for those young people.”
The spokesman added that each individual case is ‘thoroughly risk assessed’ and added: “This risk assessment takes into account any specific vulnerability the young person may have and other factors relevant to choosing accommodation such as location and other identifiable risks.
“In some cases this risk assessment may result in the young person being supported by a care worker staying overnight with them at the accommodation.”
COUCNIL: ‘WE NEED MORE FOSTER CARERS’
The council needs foster carers for youngsters of all ages and abilities.
Anyone interested is invited to attend an event at County Hall in Smedley Street, Matlock, between 5pm and 7pm on Wednesday, November 16.
People will be able to meet foster carers and staff from the council’s fostering team.
No appointment is needed and there is free parking.
Councillor Jim Coyle, cabinet member for children’s services, said: “Foster carers can change lives.
“We need them to help us to make sure that vulnerable children have safe, supportive homes.
“The more foster carers we have, the easier it is to keep children near their schools and friends, improving their quality of life.”
Fostering can be long-term, short-term, for weekends or for respite care.
Specialist foster carers, who look after, care for and support Derbyshire teenagers, can receive up to £24,370 plus fees and allowances.
Anyone over the age of 21 can foster.
They just need the space to provide a much-needed home to a child or teenager for a few days, weeks, months or years.
People who are interested but can’t get to the County Hall event should Call Derbyshire on 0800 083 77 44 or visit www.derbyshire.gov.uk/fostering