‘Absolutely appalling’ - councillor slams way vulnerable Norfolk teenagers were kept in squalid conditions
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The way vulnerable Norfolk teenagers were housed in squalid homes was 'absolutely appalling', according to one of the county councillors who investigated the complaints.
Norfolk County Council launched an investigation after this newspaper published photographs 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.
The council investigated four cases, although the reports themselves have not been made public, as the council says it could identify the youngsters.
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But the recommendations of its review went before the children's services committee on Tuesday.
Graham Middleton, Conservative councillor for Gayton and Nar Valley, who sat on the board which looked at the complaints, was scathing about the service the teenagers received.
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He said: 'I think it's quite evident the service these young people received was absolutely appalling. That's on Sixteen Plus as an organisation and on us as a council.'
The council had suspended placements with Sixteen Plus, but has said they will resume after a number of conditions and measures are met.
But Mr Middleton said: 'I don't feel overly confident on using the service. I feel the council should look at alternative providers and alternative ways of working.'
He added it had been important to understand what had gone wrong.
Matt Dunkley, interim director of children's services, said: 'Probably one of the highest areas of concern for us at the moment is access to good quality provision of accommodation for young people.'
The council has published a series of 'wider system learning' points, including having more staff to monitor the properties, annual visits to all homes and Sixteen Plus submitting reports every three months.
A group of councillors will now oversee action on accommodation and support for young people and care leavers.
Penny Carpenter, chairman of the children's services committee said: 'It's never too late to learn lessons in life and I think everybody has learned a lesson. Notwithstanding that, we now need to move forward with this.'
Inspectors from Ofsted, who have twice rated children's services in Norfolk as inadequate, have previously raised concerns over support for young people leaving care.