Norfolk

Norfolk County Council investigates teen's living conditions

Bad state room Image copyright BBC Sport
Image caption Issues raised by whistleblowers included the "awful" state of properties

An investigation is under way into how a vulnerable teenager, supported by social services, ended up living alone in squalid conditions.

BBC reporters visited the house the teenager had been staying at, finding cat faeces on floors, damaged electrical sockets and no bed linen.

Norfolk County Council said it was "urgently" investigating.

Council contractor Sixteen Plus said it was no longer providing support at the property visited by the BBC.

The private firm was paid £1.6m by the council last year to support 16-18 year olds leaving care.

'Totally unfounded'

Former workers told the council of a string of problems, including claims one young person was not allowed a key and was locked out of accommodation overnight and that risk assessments either did not exist or were very out of date.

Sixteen Plus said the allegations came from disgruntled ex-employees and were "totally unfounded".

The BBC has obtained an internal email sent by the council's head of social work resources, Peter Ronan, asking staff to investigate specific claims.

These included an account that one resident was locked out overnight, there had been "no communication with families", there were either "no or very out of date risk assessments" and there was no "log of repairs" on properties.

One former employee of Sixteen Plus said: "We've been told some of the young people like to live like this - this is the way they live.

"I know some of the young people can be very destructive but this is always reported to the co-ordinators but nothing's ever done."

Image caption There were several examples of the properties being damaged
Image caption BBC reporters saw broken electrical sockets in one property

On 1 March the BBC visited one property about which concerns were raised with the council in January.

Inside a 17-year-old was living alone with damaged electrical sockets, cat faeces on both floors, litter strewn in every room, and damaged fixtures and fittings.

County councillor Jonathon Childs (Ukip) said he had asked the Conservative-led council to investigate.

"I've been told that the properties have been inspected and everything is OK," he said.

"If this is 'everything is OK' people at Norfolk County Council should hang their heads in shame.

"This is absolutely disgusting. I apologise to the people living like this."

Image caption Ukip councillor Jonathon Childs said the conditions were "absolutely disgusting"

Sixteen Plus said it ended their support for the teenager in January. The current care arrangements for this person are unclear.

In a statement, Norfolk County Council said: "We agree that young people should not be living in these conditions.

"We are currently looking at the arrangements for all our care leavers living in the Sixteen Plus properties to ensure that their accommodation is safe and appropriate in all instances."

A spokesman for Sixteen Plus said: "Two disgruntled employees who no longer work for the company have chosen to make totally unfounded allegations.

"Their conduct whilst employed by Sixteen Plus is now subject to internal and police investigation."

Norfolk Police said it was not currently investigating the former Sixteen Plus employees whose concerns have been passed on to the BBC.

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