Almost 6,500 16- and 17-year-olds presented as homeless to their local authority in England last year, according to new data.
Research by the children’s commissioner for England found that 61% of children who presented as homeless and who should have been taken into care did not get the care they were legally entitled to.
Just 40% of children who presented as homeless were provided with accommodation, with some reporting being turned away when they asked for help.
Of the children who received accommodation, most were supported under housing legislation rather than being taken into care. Some said they felt ‘manipulated’ into not accepting their care entitlement.
Only 14% of children who were taken into care were placed in a children’s home or in foster care. Most were instead housed in semi-independent accommodation for adults.
Children’s commissioner Dame Rachel de Souza said: ‘If a 16-year-old cannot live with their own family, because they have been kicked out or their relationships have broken down, they are not “homeless”, they are a child in need of care.
‘At that point, children’s social care should be stepping in to make sure that a safe and loving home is found.
‘I am calling for all children at risk of homelessness, who cannot remain with family, to be taken into care as a default.’
Dame de Souza also called on the Government to urgently amend regulations to ensure that all children, regardless of legal status, can only be placed in regulated provision, and to develop a set of universal care standards.