Independent probe into Sixteen Plus after revelations about state of homes for Norfolk care leavers
PUBLISHED: 14:50 14 March 2017 | UPDATED: 15:22 14 March 2017
An independent investigator will be brought in by Norfolk County Council to look at services given by a private company to some vulnerable teenagers.
Problems with accommodation teenagers leaving the care of the council were being put in by the company, called Sixteen Plus, were first exposed in this newspaper at the start of this month. We published photos of homes covered in rubbish and badly damaged.
Director of children’s services Matt Dunkley told a meeting of councillors on Tuesday they had inspected 18 homes where the council pays Sixteen Plus to support and house the teenagers and all were in good order.
But he said that did not mean everything was right. He told the children’s services committee in a small number of cases issues had been raised which needed to be investigated and an independent investigator would now be brought in to do that.
Extra inspections are also being carried out by the council at Sixteen Plus properties.
Sarah Jones, assistant director of early help, told the meeting the council would review how it approached all accommodation it placed care leavers in, classed as “unregulated” which meant it was not inspected by Ofsted.
Mr Dunkley said there was a problem in Norfolk with a lack of providers for young people with complex needs. It meant the council had little choice about where to place teenagers leaving its care.
Labour councillor Emma Corlett called for a cross-party group to look at the accommodation and hear from young people leaving care about services they were getting more broadly. She said it needed to be looked at “as a matter of urgency” and not left until after county council elections in May.
And she said it was disappointing neither the council’s managing director Wendy Thomson nor leader Cliff Jordan were at the meeting. Her motion for a cross party group was seconded by Liberal Democrat councillor James Joyce who said children had been let down.
But Conservative councillors said May’s election would get in the way of that.
Barry Stone said it was a “knee jerk” reaction to press coverage. Conservative Shelagh Gurney proposed an extra meeting of the council’s Corporate Parenting Executive Group to look at the issue. Her amendment was passed by councillors.
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