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'You held a light up to something that wasn't right' - new homes for young people after probe into housing conditions

PUBLISHED: 17:42 12 March 2019 | UPDATED: 11:37 13 March 2019

New homes have been created for children who are leaving care and need a more independent setting before heading out into mainstream society. 
Matthew Canning, senior semi-independent support worker. Pic: Sonya Duncan
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New homes have been created for children who are leaving care and need a more independent setting before heading out into mainstream society. Matthew Canning, senior semi-independent support worker. Pic: Sonya Duncan .

Archant 2019

The first of 11 homes for young people leaving care in Norfolk has opened, with councillors saying lessons have been learned since an investigation found children had been housed in poor conditions.

Matthew Canning, Senior semi independent support worker and Stuart Dark, chairman of the children's services committee at Norfolk County Council. Pic:  Sonya DuncanMatthew Canning, Senior semi independent support worker and Stuart Dark, chairman of the children's services committee at Norfolk County Council. Pic: Sonya Duncan

Norfolk County Council is spending £5m to create the homes for care leavers, with the first of the homes opening near Norwich, in South Norfolk and in Breckland.

The new homes, staffed around the clock by Norfolk County Council staff, will give young people leaving the council’s care the skills and confidence to live independently.

When all are open, there will be 25 to 30 beds across the properties, which are furnished with items chosen by the children. Stuart Dark, chairman of the council’s children’s services committee, said: “Like any good parent, we want our children to have all of the support and care they need as they become independent adults - that’s why we have invested in these homes, to provide safe, good quality accommodation as our young people learn to make their way in the world.

“Staff will be on hand at all times to provide advice and support and the new homes mean that we can support local young people near to their communities, without placing them in more high cost residential or independent accommodation.”

Inside one of the bedrooms at one of the new homes for care leavers near Norwich. Pic: Sonya Duncan.Inside one of the bedrooms at one of the new homes for care leavers near Norwich. Pic: Sonya Duncan.

The move comes two years after this newspaper published photographs of the inside of homes where young people leaving the council’s care were being placed by a private firm called Sixteen Plus.

The pictures, showing broken furniture and rubbish-strewn rooms where the council was paying for vulnerable youngsters to live, sparked an investigation by the council.

Referring to those articles, Mr Dark said: “You held us to account. You held a light up to something that wasn’t right. And we have shown that we have listened.”

Following the council’s investigation into four cases, an apology was issued to young people affected.

The kitchen of one of the new homes. Pic: Sonya Duncan.The kitchen of one of the new homes. Pic: Sonya Duncan.

The council says it still has a “relationship” with Sixteen Plus for placements, after a number of measures and conditions were met.

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