Coroner calls for regulation of supported housing after London teen stabbed to death by fellow hostel resident

Victim: Lance Walker  (Met Police)
Victim: Lance Walker (Met Police)

A coroner has called on the government to regulate temporary housing for vulnerable young people, after an 18-year-old was stabbed to death by a fellow resident at a west London hostel.

Lance Walker, 18, was fatally knifed in the back by Idris Hassan days after the teenagers were placed in temporary accommodation together in Gledwood Drive, Hayes.

Paramedics rushed to the scene on the afternoon of August 15, 2016, and fought to save Mr Walker’s life but he was pronounced dead at the scene.

Coroner Lydia Brown has now described the provision of temporary accommodation for 18 to 21-year-olds as “an entirely unregulated sector”, and has called on the government to introduce measures to help prevent similar incidents.

Ms Brown said some such accommodation currently lacks the “training, staffing or knowledge” needed to help vulnerable care leavers.

As a “looked after” child, Mr Walker was entitled to be housed until the age of 21.

“He was placed by London Borough of Islington in an unregulated residential home run by Urban Youth Flex during 2016,” Ms Brown wrote in a report following his inquest. “He was 18 years of age.”

She explained that Hassan, also 18, was then also given emergency housing at the same hostel several weeks later.

Just eleven days later, he stabbed Mr Walker to death.

Hassan was charged with murder but later pleaded guilty to manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility.

His plea was accepted following expert psychiatric reports, and he was sentenced to a hospital order under the Mental Health Act.

At Mr Walker’s inquest, a jury found a string of “errors, omission and failures that possibly caused or contributed to” his death - including alleged mishandling of Hassan’s placement and a lack of communication surrounding his mental health.

Ms Brown has now issued a prevention of future deaths report, as she believes “future deaths could occur unless action is taken”.

Writing to Education Secretary Gillian Keegan and Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay, she said: “Lance was only exposed to his killer because he was obliged to live in the designated accommodation.

“Although [Ealing and Islington] councils were duty bound to house both individuals up until the age of 21 under the Leaving Care Act, there is currently no regulation for the over-18s. Regulation is being introduced for 16-17 year olds in April 2023.”

She explained that accommodation for over-18s continues to fall outside the jurisdiction of both health and social care regulator the Care Quality Commission (CQC), and education watchdog Ofsted.

“The provision is made from an entirely un-regulated sector, resulting in some organisations offering accommodation with inadequate training, staffing or knowledge to meet the complex needs of some of our most vulnerable individuals,” added Ms Brown.

“Consideration should be given to introducing regulation for at least 18-21 year old individuals. This issue remains a concern for all those who work within it.”

A Government spokesperson responded: “This is a tragic case, and we are taking action to increase support to young people who move to independent living through an increase to the leaving care allowance from £2,000 to £3,000 and strengthening our offers so children can stay with their foster carers or close to their children’s homes when they leave care.

“We are also backing legislation that will give councils more powers to enforce higher standards and, where needed, ban poorly performing landlords. This is reinforced by a £20 million investment to drive up quality in the supported housing sector and protect the most vulnerable in society.”