Hundreds of vulnerable children are being left to fend for themselves without support in unregulated children’s homes due to a legal loophole, a charity has claimed.
The charity Just for Kids Law that an estimated 1,498 children, aged 16 and 17 who are at risk of homelessness and should be in the care of local authorities are put in unregulated children’s homes, which include hostels and supported accommodation with minimal adult supervision, leaving them exposed to exploitation or abuse.
According to the charity, this is one in five of all children in unregulated homes.
As homeless children, they should be taken into care by the local authority, but a legal loophole allows councils to give them a bare minimum of support by housing them under the Housing Act 1996 and placing them in unregulated accommodation.
Just for Kids law regularly works with children who are denied their right to be taken into care despite being homeless.
It said many of them have suffered domestic abuse, violence or neglect and desperately need the state to act as their parent and look after them by providing a caring home. Instead these children are housed in unregulated accommodation that is dirty and unsafe, forced to live alongside adults who are involved in alcohol or substance abuse.
As Ofsted do not inspect unregulated accommodation and they may only receive a few hours’ support a week from a staff member, they are left at considerable risk.
A child who is in care is entitled to regular contact from a social worker and on turning 18 will become a care leaver with a right to financial allowances, support from the local authority up to age 25 and priority access to social housing.
Children who are not in care have no legal right to any support, other than a place to live and are not given any support when they turn 18.
Just for Kids Law has called for the law to be changed so that no child under 18 can be placed in unregulated accommodation and denied their right to be taken into care.
‘These forgotten children are the some of the most vulnerable in our society, yet they are being left without the support they desperately need, neglected by the state,’ said charity chief executive, Enver Solomon.
‘It should never be acceptable for a child who has faced great adversity to be without a caring home. The government needs to urgently address the legal loophole that is allowing this to happen and ensure no child who is facing homelessness has to cope alone with minimal support.’
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