SIXTEEN Dorset care leavers are said to be living in ‘unsuitable’ accommodation – according to Dorset Council.

The group is among 262 young people the authority still has some responsibility for although they are now aged between 18 and 25.

A report to councillors this week says that although the vast majority are in suitable places to live, 16 are classed as being in 'unsuitable homes' – these include two in custody, two where their residence is not known, four in unstable accommodation with friends and eight in emergency B&B accommodation.

Councillors on the corporate parenting board say Covid has resulted in a delay in finding suitable accommodation with an increase in rent levels now being charged by those landlords who are still offering spaces.

“Affordability is a key issue as benefit housing element rates have not kept pace with rent costs which landlords can charge in the current private rental market. Supply and demand has driven costs up. Letting agent’s fees are also prohibitive. An additional risk is that the private rental sector has no security of tenure and landlords are at liberty to end tenancies when they want their properties back,” says the report.

Councillors are being told that staff managed to maintain contact with all its care leavers during lockdown, apart from a handful, who chose not to cooperate.

Ten reconditioned mobile smart phones were made available during the period for those considered the most vulnerable to help them stay in touch with social services, their families and friends; with another 30 provided with new smart mobile phones and SIM cards limited to free calls and texts and 10GB of date per month.

The council also provided 60 reconditioned laptops to its care leavers with another 32 laptops and routers offered on loan.

Throughout lockdown the Friends of Dorset Care Leavers have organised weekly activities online including quizzes, bingo and competitions, with the group also providing a ‘summer essentials’ pack of craft items and face coverings.

During the summer nine of the care leavers graduated from university and celebrated with a virtual graduation party in August.