William Eichler 15 December 2015

Doncaster Council warned for failing to support homeless young people

Doncaster Council has been criticised for the second time in two years for failing to provide adequate support to homeless young people.

The Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) has issued its second critical report to Doncaster within two years after receiving a complaint that the council had failed to follow national guidance and its own policy when dealing with a teenager.

In December 2014, a teenage girl in the Doncaster area was thrown out of her house by her mother.

The 16-year-old, whose parents were known to social services because of their issues with alcohol, drugs and domestic abuse, and the girl’s consequent mental health problems, was then placed by the council in interim accommodation, where she relied on food parcels and emergency money.

A social work manager then decided that the girl couldn’t be classed as homeless because she could live with her father, despite his history of drinking, drug addiction and emotional abuse.

The same manager also didn’t carry out a child in need assessment.

The council then delayed informing the girl of their decision regarding her homelessness application, and finally offered to assess her for being placed in foster care.

The council, according to the LGO, should have explained the whole variety of support options that might have been available as well as foster care, had she been assessed.

By March 2015 the girl was living alone in a hostel with no support from her parents or from social services. She was on anti-depressants and the police warned social services that her boyfriend had been harassing her.

A third party made a complaint to the LGO that the girl wasn’t receiving sufficient support from the council.

The LGO’s report claimed that the council did not take into account the earlier referrals made about the girl, including significant concerns expressed by the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) and her school before deciding it should not help her.

Dr Jane Martin, Local Government Ombudsman, said: ‘The suffering this young woman has gone through could have been prevented if the council had learnt the lessons from our report last year. It is not enough to simply change a policy, officers need to be aware of and implement those changes too.

‘While I am pleased that Doncaster council has accepted my recommendations it is disappointing that more concrete improvements were not made after my previous investigation. I hope that the opportunity will now be taken to ensure that a situation like this cannot happen again.’

The LGO recommended that the council apologise to the girl and backdate its duty to support her to December 2014. It also said the council should pay her £,2000 to acknowledge the distress caused.

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