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Kelly asks homeowners to house B&B teenagers

Lucy Ward 15th November 2006

Homeowners with a spare room are to be invited to offer a temporary "breathing space" to homeless teenagers to help fulfil a new government pledge to end bed and breakfast accommodation for 16 and 17-year-olds with no permanent home. Bed and breakfast hotels will no longer be used to house this age group by 2010, except in emergencies, the government said yesterday.

Instead, ministers want to encourage the growth of "supported lodging" schemes, in which vulnerable youngsters who cannot stay in their family home would live as part of another household and receive advice, help and support. Those offering the accommodation would have to train and pass stringent checks, but would receive some payment.

In a series of measures targeting youth homelessness announced on the 40th anniversary of the landmark BBC drama Cathy Come Home, the communities secretary, Ruth Kelly, also promised more access to hostels providing safe accommodation together with advice and mediation services. According to government figures, almost a quarter of the 93,000 new cases of homelessness taken on by local authorities last year are the result of parents no longer willing to accommodate youngsters. Relationship breakdown accounts for a further 20%.

Ms Kelly said yesterday: "It is unacceptable for a civilised society like ours to expect homeless 16 and 17-year-olds to be on their own in bed and breakfast hotels. This is one of the worst faces of homelessness today ... These are young people at their most vulnerable, who are a short step from throwing away their future."

Hostels should be "places of change", offering training and other support as well as temporary accommodation in order to end the "revolving door" of homelessness, she added. She also pledged steps to prevent homelessness, including mediation to try to cut family breakdown.

The government has allocated £74m for 2007-08 to be spent by local authorities on tackling homelessness, including the measures targeting young people. A further £90m will help upgrade dozens of hostels and expand their services. Homelessness campaigners welcomed the plans. Angela Sarkis, national secretary of the YMCA, said homeless 16 and 17-year-olds needed very different support from their older counterparts, and should not be placed in bed and breakfasts.

Paul Bettison, chairman of the Local Government Association environment board, said homelessness could often lead young people into "an unfortunate spiral into drugs, crime and unemployment. The golden rule is to get any young person made homeless off the streets into stable accommodation within one month."

Shelter chief executive Adam Sampson praised the government's commitment to stop using bed and breakfasts.But he said more than a million children were still trapped by bad housing or homelessness.

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