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Norfolk suspends all new placements with Sixteen Plus after concerns raised about service for vulnerable teenagers

PUBLISHED: 14:16 16 March 2017 | UPDATED: 15:53 16 March 2017

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

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

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Teenagers leaving Norfolk County Council's care are no longer being housed in new placements with controversy-hit Sixteen Plus after a series of concerns were raised about living conditions and services.

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

It comes after photos were published in this newspaper at the start of March revealing the shocking state that some of the care leavers were living in.

Norfolk County Council pays a company called Sixteen Plus to provide supported accommodation for the young people, at a cost of £1.56m last year.

When the photos were published, the council initially said it had inspected the homes, which Sixteen Plus was renting from private landlords, and was satisfied with them.

But further concerns were then raised about the service.

Photos show the inside of homes where Sixteen Plus was paid to place teenagers leaving the care of Norfolk County Council's children's services department. Photo: SubmittedPhotos show the inside of homes where Sixteen Plus was paid to place teenagers leaving the care of Norfolk County Council's children's services department. Photo: Submitted

On Tuesday the council’s children’s services director Matt Dunkley said an independent investigator would be brought in to examine a small number of cases where young people had been placed with Sixteen Plus.

And on Thursday, a spokesman for the council confirmed all new placements had been suspended. It is unclear how long for.

UKIP councillor Jonathon Childs, who first raised concerns with the council in February about the state of the accommodation, said it was “a shocking state of affairs”.

“Norfolk’s most vulnerable young people need to be looked after and protected not left unattended, unsupervised and, in my view, let down,” he said. “I have shared my concerns with the managing director and leader of the council.”

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

A spokesperson for the council said: “We will not be making further new placements with Sixteen Plus until the independent complaints investigation has been completed into concerns about a small number of cases. This is standard practice, and the position will be reviewed with Sixteen Plus once that process is complete.”

Sixteen Plus continues to provide a similar service in Suffolk which Suffolk county councillor Stephen Burroughes said they were “fully satisfied” with.

“Regular quality assurance visits have been carried out since the contract began in May 2016, and we continue to receive compliments from residents regarding their service,” he said.

“We will continue to work closely with the provider to ensure residents remain satisfied with their accommodation.”

Sixteen Plus has been contacted for comment.

When pictures showing the poor state of accommodation were first published, the company said the property had been left in a bad state by the teenagers and all damage had been repaired.

They said at the time: “Our service is different to children’s homes or foster care, and aims to provide essential life skills to best equip them for independent living, for when they reach 18 years of age and receive no support, encouragement to make positive choices in line with their personal allowances, which is the same for each young person nationwide.”

Read more here from our Fighting For Their Futures campaign

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