Council criticised for handling of teenager thrown out of home

Councillor Nuala Fennelly
Councillor Nuala Fennelly
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A YORKSHIRE council has been told to pay a teenager £2,000 and apologise over its failure to properly assess her housing needs after she was thrown out by her mother.

The Local Government Ombudsman criticised Doncaster Council’s handling of the case which left the 16-year-old, who had a history of self harm, to find her own accommodation with the help of a local housing project.

The Ombudsman also expressed concern that the council had not learned the lessons of a similar case it ruled on in 2014.

Doncaster Children’s Services Trust, which was set up last year and has the responsibility for protecting children in the district, has accepted the Ombudsman’s findings.

Coun Nuala Fennelly, Doncaster Council’s cabinet member for children, young people and schools, said: “I have made clear to those involved in this case that this is not acceptable. I have also asked for reassurance that proper actions are in place.

“There have been many improvements in Doncaster’s Children’s Services over the last year, however, we must strive to ensure that the best is continually done for families and young people.”

The teenager, who had been known to social services from the age of 11, approached the council for help in December 2014 when her mother asked her to leave the house in the middle of the night.

The girl had previously lived with her father but had complained of his aggression towards her and violence towards her brother connected to his heavy drinking.

She later moved in with her mother but the local child and adolescent mental health service expressed concern after the teenager harmed herself.

After an assessment of her situation, it was decided the teenager should continue to live with her mother with ongoing monitoring.

Following an overdose and further self-harm in 2014, the teenager was admitted to an adult mental health unit.

The child and adolescent mental health service expressed conern about her living with her mother. However social services said they would not accommodate the girl while her mother was willing to provide a home.

The teenager eventually went back to live with her father after he completed an alcohol detoxification programme.

But shortly afterwards he begain drinking again and the girl moved again to her mother’s home.

Matters came to a head in December 2014 when the mother told the teenager to leave.

She slept on the sofa at a friend’s house for several nights before speaking to the council.

The teenager was initially provided with “interim accommodation” while her school provid £400 for food and clothing.

After moving into a hostel, the girl was told by social services she could be assessed for foster care but the teenager refused.

The Ombudsman found the teenager should have been told about the broader range of support options available.

It said if the council had properly assessed the teenager it was likely she would have been considered a “child in need” qualifying for council accommodation.

The Ombudsman said Doncaster should pay the teenager £2,000 to “acknowledge the avoidable distress caused and limited support provided to her” by the council. It also recommended the authority should review its procedures and staff training.