'Lack of accommodation sees homeless children in B&Bs'

Homeless teenager Image copyright Thinkstock

Homeless children with the most complex problems are having to stay in bed and breakfasts due to a lack of suitable accommodation in Wales, a charity has claimed.

Solas Cymru said the lack of provision means these young people are not getting the help they need.

It stressed there was an "urgent" need for suitable accommodation.

The Welsh Government said it was working towards ending the use of B&Bs for 16 and 17 year olds.

Eight children living at a special homeless accommodation in Newport all have complex needs such as mental health issues or a drug dependency.

Some will be considered a danger to themselves or others and will be extremely violent, or have exhibited inappropriate sexual behaviour. All will have experienced traumatic events in their childhood.

Lily, 17, who lives in the accommodation, said some of her previous placements have been difficult.

"I've been in all different foster carers' homes, people I did like and people I didn't like," she said.

"They took me out of a foster placement and put me into a residential children's home. When I was in the foster placements, I was seeing other families being happy but me being the one left out.

"I'd sit there and think, 'you're calling her mum, but where's my mum?'"

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Media captionLily, 17, said some of her previous placements have been difficult

Lily said she had to move out of her main foster home after an incident with another resident.

She tracked her mother down via social media when she was 12, and said they have since been able to form a mother-daughter relationship.

Official figures show there are 5,660 looked-after children in Wales and Solas believes about 5% - some 280 children - will have complex needs.

The eight beds at the centre serve seven councils, but the charity said it has to turn away about 90% of young people referred to them, meaning some of those children will then be housed in inappropriate accommodation, including bed and breakfasts, even though they could exhibit "risky or dangerous behaviour".

The most recent official figures - based on data from the Welsh councils - show there are 45 young people aged 16-17 and 66 care leavers aged 18-21 living in B&Bs. Only six councils had figures large enough to publish.

Charlotte Waite, director of Young People, Children and Families at Solas Cymru, said: "It's really not appropriate when you've run out of options for these young people to put them in an adult scheme or bed and breakfast.

"Some of these young people are risky yes, because of the way they've been traumatised perhaps in their early life, it makes them a risk to themselves or others."

Image caption Charlotte Waite said it was "not appropriate" to house young people with complex needs in B&Bs

However, the charity does recognise the number of children being housed in B&Bs is falling.

A Welsh Local Government Association spokesman said: "As the corporate parent for looked-after children in their care, local authorities aim to take a holistic view of their needs and to commission and provide services, including accommodation, accordingly."

A Welsh Government spokesman said in "exceptional circumstances" councils could use B&B accommodation "for very short periods while more suitable accommodation is found".

"Ensuring all teenagers have a safe place to stay is of upmost importance to us and we are working towards ending the use of B&Bs for 16 and 17 year olds," he added.

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