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Cornwall Council (17 005 652)

Category : Children's care services > Looked after children

Decision : Upheld

Decision date : 31 Aug 2018


Mrs C complains on her son’s (Mr B) behalf that social services staff left him in a tent and a static caravan for several weeks in the summer of 2016 when he was addicted to drugs and homeless aged 17, without properly assessing if he could make decisions about his own safety. She complains this put him at risk and worsened his already poor mental health.


The Ombudsman upheld the complaint and found fault causing injustice.


To remedy Mr B’s injustice, we recommend the Council, 

  • pologises to him for the fault found; and
  • pays him £1,000 for the effect on his mental health of placing him in unsuitable accommodation, £1,000 for his lost opportunity and £500 for placing him at risk without properly assessing whether he was able to freely consent to the arrangements the Council made for him and for failing to follow up his report of a sexual assault, making £2,500 in total.

To remedy Mrs C’s injustice, we recommend the Council:

  • apologises to her for the fault found; and
  • pays her £1,000 for the severe distress its actions caused her in the summer of 2016, £250 for the frustration of having to chase the Council for information and £250 for her time and trouble in pursuing her complaint, making £1,500 in total.

To prevent a recurrence of these failings we recommend the Council:

  • reviews its policies and procedures for accommodating homeless 16 and 17 year-olds to comply with statutory guidance and to ensure bed and breakfast accommodation, static caravans and tents are never considered suitable accommodation for such young people. It should also ensure where homeless young people refuse accommodation, it considers if there is any reason why it should not treat their wishes as definitive rather than assuming so. It should also record the reason for its decision to accept the young person’s refusal;
  • draws up an action plan to ensure there is sufficient suitable accommodation available for homeless young people in Cornwall;
  • arranges staff training for those who work with homeless young people to ensure they are aware bed and breakfast accommodation, static caravans and tents are never suitable accommodation for homeless 16 and 17 year-olds; and arranges staff training to ensure there is a proper recorded decision about possible risk of significant harm in all cases where the Council receives a safeguarding referral involving any child or young person under 18, including reports of child sexual exploitation (CSE).

Ombudsman satisfied with Council's response: 8 January 2019.

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