Asylum seeking children in Suffolk will be housed by a firm under investigation in Norfolk over state of accommodation
PUBLISHED: 13:26 28 March 2017 | UPDATED: 13:43 28 March 2017
A firm under investigation in Norfolk for the “shocking” state of accommodation it housed teenagers in has been awarded a £3.5m contract by Suffolk County Council to look after asylum seeking children.
The council gave the contract to Peterborough-based Sixteen Plus in February, two weeks before photos were published in this newspaper showing filthy conditions of the state of some homes Sixteen Plus had placed vulnerable teenagers in on behalf of Norfolk County Council.
The pictures prompted an investigation by Norfolk County Council and Sixteen Plus which said it was “confident” in the service it provides.
An external investigator is being brought in by Norfolk.
Cambridgeshire County Council, meanwhile, suspended all new placements with the firm.
But Sue Cook, director for children and young people in Suffolk, said the council remained “fully satisfied” with the company, which is advertising for staff to look after the children at £7.50 an hour.
The £3.5m contract to provide supported accommodation for the 16 to 18 year olds until 2020 will mean Sixteen Plus looks after 40 unaccompanied asylum seeking children in Suffolk, who local authorities across England have been asked to take.
The YMCA was also awarded an identical contract by Suffolk to look after another 40 children.
Ms Cook said: “We will continue to carry out regular monitoring visits with both providers to ensure the quality of the service provided remains high.”
There are currently 68 unaccompanied asylum seeking children in the care of Suffolk County Council, with more arriving each year.
The children are helped with their application for asylum and given a placement with a foster carer or in supported accommodation.
Norfolk County Council is also expected to take more unaccompanied children.
According to a council report last year, Norfolk looks after just 15 unaccompanied asylum seeking children, but that could rise to 117.
A spokesman for the council said “safeguarding issues” meant they could not say how many unaccompanied asylum seeking children the council was going to care for, how many it was looking after at the moment, how it would house those children or whether its suspension of new placements with Sixteen Plus had affected its plans.