Troubled teen ‘living’ in hospital because no ‘suitable’ unit can be found

A teenager with behavioural difficulties and mental health problems is “living” on a children’s ward at a hospital because no “suitable” accommodation can be found, a family court judge has been told.

Judge Elizabeth Williscroft has described the youngster’s situation as “shocking” and says a specialist placement is required.

The judge says she is “confident” that a council responsible for the teenager’s care has done “everything it can to find a place”.

She said the problem was a “lack of resources nationwide”.

Judge Williscroft has outlined details of the case in a ruling, published online, after considering evidence at a recent family court hearing in Derby.

A number of judges have raised concern about a shortage of secure accommodation for troubled children in recent years.

In July 2021, one of Britain’s most senior judges described a lack of “proper provision” for children who required approved secure accommodation as “scandalous”.

Supreme Court justice Lord Stephens said the problem was a scandal with “all the ingredients for a tragedy”.

He outlined his thoughts in a Supreme Court ruling on a case concerning another vulnerable teenager.

Judge Williscroft  said the teenager at the centre of the case she was overseeing could not be identified in media reports.

She said Derbyshire County Council and the University Hospitals of Derby and Burton NHS Foundation Trust were the two public authorities involved.

The judge indicated the teenager had been living at the hospital for a number of weeks.

She said “an acute children’s ward” had been the “only place” the teenager could be detained.

Judge Williscroft said evidence showed there was no medical reason for the teenager to be in hospital.

“I approved a final care order for this child,” she said in her judgment.

“I also approved an order that (the child) should be deprived of liberty by both the council and the local NHS Trust as (the child) is currently ‘living’ in a children’s ward at the local hospital as there is nowhere suitable.”

She added: “In itself this is shocking.”

Judge Williscroft, who has not revealed the teenager’s gender, said a “home with specialist carers” was “obviously required”.

She said a search was on for a suitable placement.

“This task, I am well aware, is a dispiriting and often fruitless one as there are few suitable places with vacancies,” she said.

“I am confident the local authority has done everything it can to find a place but simply lack of resources nationwide prevents this.”