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Councils put care children in B&Bs

More than half of councils in England have placed children leaving care in the past year in bed and breakfasts for at least 28 days, figures show.

The figure of more than 800 care leavers having been placed in accommodation in that period is much higher than that recorded by the Department for Education, Barnardo's said,

The children's charity said it goes against guidance that B&Bs should only be used as a last resort.

In an undercover investigation following the release of the figures to the charity, director Puja Darbari said the accommodation she experienced was entirely unsuitable and she was "horrified" by conditions faced by some young people, which included damp and mouldy bedrooms and rot around windows.

The charity is launching new guidance to local authorities as part of its Beyond Care campaign, aiming to help them provide support to those leaving care.

Ms Darbari said: "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 environments, against government guidelines."

Alternatives encouraged by the charity include supported lodgings and short-term or overnight emergency accommodation featuring specialist support for young people.

The charity is also urging people to write to their local councillors on the issue to "demand better conditions for these young people who have no one else to turn to".

Councillor Nick Forbes, vice chairman of the Local Government Association's children and young people's board, said the report lays bare the difficulties faced by some councils in finding emergency care options for young people.

"The cost of providing children's social care is one of the biggest challenges facing councils up and down the country, particularly in light of the huge increase in demand for vital child protection services amid 40% cuts to local government during this parliament.

"Councils are facing real difficulties in finding emergency care for vulnerable young people due to a shortage of housing, funding cuts and record numbers of them entering the care system.

"There are a number of schemes already in place across the country, some highlighted in the Barnardo's report, with several councils already developing proposals for innovative work that will improve and expand the range of emergency care options available for young people.

"We must make sure that practice is being shared amongst everyone who has a duty to protect young people so that we ensure they are given support through accommodation that is appropriate, safe, and tailored towards their individual needs."

A Department for Education spokesman said: "We have been crystal clear that young people must not be placed in bed and breakfasts unless absolutely essential. We will take tough action where we find councils are routinely failing these vulnerable young people."

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