Kent and Dover councils left homeless boy living in tent

"Inexcusable" failures by two councils led to a homeless teenager living in a tent for nine months, sometimes in the snow, a report has said.

The Local Government Ombudsman said failures by Kent County Council (KCC) and Dover District Council (DDC) could have tipped the boy into crime.

KCC failed to help the 16-year-old as a "child in need" and DDC failed to accept him as homeless, Anne Seex said.

Both councils said they would apologise and pay him £10,100 compensation.

The compensation figure was recommended by the ombudsman with each authority to pay half.

'Extreme case'

The boy, known as J, slept on friends' sofas at times and had to sell or give away his belongings to pay people back who were letting him stay, Ms Seex said.

His tent was vandalised and his health suffered, leading him to lose weight and develop a chest infection, the report indicated.

Ms Seex, who described the case as "absolutely extreme and extraordinary", said the boy had been in foster care and was sent back to his mother, but had to leave in 2009 when she started living with an intravenous drug user.

Legal cases in 2008 and 2009 had established how young homeless people should be dealt with and both councils "should have had no doubt whatsoever about their responsibilities", she explained.

"We understand the local policeman used to check that he was OK, and he'd not been attacked or injured in any way," she said.

"And a local youth centre really gave him the support and advice that Kent social services should have given him."

In her report, published earlier, Ms Seex said that despite facing "crushingly difficult circumstances", J remained "determined and resilient".

'Deeply sorry'

The report said KCC failed under the Children Act, DDC failed under the Housing Act, and the councils had failed to follow their joint protocol.

It found maladministration causing injustice on the part of both authorities.

In a statement, DDC said it was taking action to implement recommendations and added: "The council is deeply sorry for any hardship suffered a result of its actions before these improvements were made."

Kent County Council leader Paul Carter said: "Clearly we didn't get things right and we do apologise to that young man who we clearly let down."

He said the case happened in 2009, at a time when Ofsted found KCC's child protection services to be inadequate.

"The systems that we've now introduced following the poor Ofsted report should make sure that such an occurrence doesn't happen again," Mr Carter added.

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