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Norfolk council sorry but says teens can be put back with firm investigated over care

PUBLISHED: 15:17 06 September 2017 | UPDATED: 15:17 06 September 2017

Photos taken at properties rented by Sixteen Plus. Photo: Supplied

Photos taken at properties rented by Sixteen Plus. Photo: Supplied

Supplied

Vulnerable teenagers in Norfolk will be placed back with a company investigated for putting youngsters in homes in a squalid state - despite an apology from the council.

Photos taken at properties rented by Sixteen Plus and paid for by Norfolk County Council. Photo: Supplied Photos taken at properties rented by Sixteen Plus and paid for by Norfolk County Council. Photo: Supplied

Norfolk County Council launched an investigation after this newspaper published photos in March of the inside of homes where young people leaving the care of the council were being placed by a firm called Sixteen Plus.

They showed broken furniture and rooms covered in rubbish.

A whistleblower also raised concerns about the level of support the former children in care were getting and the neighbour at one of the houses in Norwich being rented by Sixteen Plus said there were late night parties and police were called.

The council investigated four cases and the recommendations of its review will go before councillors on the children’s services committee next week.

Photos taken at properties rented by Sixteen Plus in Norfolk. Photo: Supplied Photos taken at properties rented by Sixteen Plus in Norfolk. Photo: Supplied

However, the council has refused to release the report, stating it would identify the teenagers involved.

Instead it has published a series of “wider system learning” points in a four-and-a-half page report for councillors to discuss.

Points include having more staff to monitor the properties, annual visits to all homes and Sixteen Plus submitting reports every three months.

The council will use its existing staff to carry out those visits and is currently inspecting placements every fortnight.

Penny Carpenter, chair of Norfolk County Council's children's services committee. Pic: Norfolk County Council. Penny Carpenter, chair of Norfolk County Council's children's services committee. Pic: Norfolk County Council.

Former UKIP councillor for East Flegg Jonathon Childs, who first raised the concerns with the council, accused the council of “brushing the report under the carpet”.

He said: “Who is challenging the report? Who is speaking up for those involved?”

“The young people that spoke with me were from Norwich, not the East Fleggs. It is a scandal that those elected members have not raised merry hell over the disgusting mess that was found.”

In March the council suspended all new placements with Sixteen Plus, which it has a £4.4m contract with to provide supported accommodation.

Photos taken at properties rented on by Sixteen Plus. Photo: Supplied Photos taken at properties rented on by Sixteen Plus. Photo: Supplied

But chairman of the council’s corporate parenting board, Penny Carpenter, said following the review placements could begin again, after certain conditions have been met. The council said those conditions were “stringent and appropriate” but were “commercially sensitive”.

Mrs Carpenter said: “I personally am very grateful to those who brought this to the attention of Children’s Services and would like to apologise to those young people who did not always receive the high quality of support that we want and I would expect.

“As a council we have taken this issue very seriously and have had the full cooperation and support of Sixteen Plus.”

Mrs Carpenter added: “Our cross party Corporate Parenting Board has now discussed the confidential report in detail and heard about the actions already taken to address some of the issues that arose.

Photos taken at properties rented by Sixteen Plus. Photo: Supplied Photos taken at properties rented by Sixteen Plus. Photo: Supplied

“Following a thoroughly detailed debate and consideration of the findings, we agreed that placements could resume following a number of measures and conditions being met. However, as yet we have not made any further placements with Sixteen Plus.”

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