Judge told how teenager in ‘crisis situation’ costing council ‘staggering’ £45,000 a week

A judge has raised concern about a shortage of secure accommodation for troubled teenagers after being told that a council is spending £45,000 a week on the care of a girl in a “crisis situation”.

Mr Justice Peel said everyone involved in the girl’s care agreed that she was in accommodation which was “wholly unsuitable” and described the amount of public money being spent on her care package as “staggering”.

But he did not blame social services bosses or health staff.

He said the problem was caused by a lack of “available placement options”.

The judge considered the girl’s case at an online hearing in the Court of Protection, where issues relating to people who lack the mental capacity to make decisions are aired, on Monday.

He said the girl, who is in her late teens, could not be identified in media reports of the case and said the council responsible for her care could not be named.

Mr Justice Peel is the latest in a series of judges to raise concern about a shortage of regulated secure accommodation for children in England and Wales.

A barrister representing council bosses responsible for the girl’s care outlined detail of the girl’s case to Mr Justice Peel.

Lucy Leeming said the girl, who has mental health problems and behavioural difficulties, was violent and cared for on a “four to one” basis.

She said the girl was living an a “wholly inappropriate environment” because of limited resources and told the judge that the care package was costing £45,000 a week.

“All those involved in the care of (the girl) appreciate the crisis situation she is in,” Ms Leeming said.

“This is a very woeful situation.”

She said council bosses wanted education ministers to be made aware of the case.

Mr Justice Peel, who is based in the Family Division of the High Court in London, said council bosses could lawfully continue to deprive the teenager of her liberty.

He said the case would be reviewed soon.

“This is yet another case where limited resources and a lack of available placement options means that a young person is currently placed somewhere which everybody agrees is wholly unsuitable,” he said.

“And yet this is taking place at a cost to the public purse of £45,000 a week.

“That is a staggering sum.”

Earlier this year one of Britain’s most senior judges – Supreme Court justice Lord Stephens – described a lack of “proper provision” for children who require approved secure accommodation as “scandalous”.

Lord Stephens raised concern in a Supreme Court ruling on a case concerning another vulnerable teenager in July and said the problem was a scandal that contained “all the ingredients for a tragedy”.

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