Family court judge praises teen housed in Airbnb after going into council care

Judge Joanna Vincent, who oversaw private hearings in Oxford, said the boy, now 15, was ‘vulnerable’ and deserved ‘much better care’

Boy in care lived in Airbnb
Boy in care lived in Airbnb

A family court judge has praised the “strength of character” of a “vulnerable” teenager who spent nearly eight months living under constant supervision in an Airbnb after going into council care.

Judge Joanna Vincent was told how the boy, now 15 and in the care of Oxfordshire County Council, had lived in four different “placements” in about two-and-a-half years.

The judge said one placement ended “very abruptly” and the boy, who had “complex emotional and behavioural needs”, had been given “no idea” where he was going next.

She said he had to leave behind his pet hamster, laptop, and bike – and had not got them back for “many months”.

Judge Vincent said the boy was vulnerable and deserved “much better care”.

She said he was “happy” in his current placement.

The judge has outlined detail of the case in a written ruling published online, following private family court hearings in Oxford, and said the teenager could not be identified in media reports of the case.

She said she did not think that social services staff could have “worked any harder” to improve the boy’s “situation”.

The judge said staff had “worked tirelessly” to find a “regulated placement” which would meet his needs

But she said that could not bring the boy “much comfort”.

Judge Vincent outline detail of his moves between three placements and said the boy had “never settled fully” in any of them.

She said one placement ended “very abruptly” because staff felt they could not keep the boy safe.

Boy in care lived in Airbnb
A family court judge how told how a boy had to leave his pet hamster behind after leaving a care placement. (SPCA/PA)

“(The boy) had no idea where he was going to be placed next,” she said.

“Many of his possessions were left behind, including his pet hamster, laptop, and bike.

“Despite repeated requests, it took many months for them to be returned.”

She said the council had moved the boy to Airbnb accommodation, in the community – supported by agency staff, early this year.

“In order to keep (him) safe from harming himself, significant restrictions were put in place.

“He was supervised by adults at all times and was not able to go out on his own.

“Use of his phone and access to cash was monitored and sometimes restricted.”

She said the council had asked for court orders authorising staff to “interfere” with the boy’s human right to liberty if they considered that necessary to safeguard his welfare.

“(The boy) told me that although there were adults with him at all times, they were not taking care of him,” said the judge.

“He had to buy and prepare all his own meals while staff watched.

“He was not seeing other children his own age.

“Plans were made for (him) to do online school, but it was hard for him to do this in isolation, without support from a teacher sitting beside him to get the laptop set up … or to help with the lessons.

“All the time, he was expecting news of a move to another placement.

“It is a lot for anyone to cope with and he showed great strength of character.”

The judge added: “I do not think that the local authority could have worked any harder to improve the situation for (the boy).

“However, that cannot bring much comfort to (the boy), who remained in the Airbnb for just under eight months.

“(He) is a vulnerable young person who needed and deserved to receive much better care.

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