VULNERABLE teenagers are "falling painfully between the cracks"
of childhood and adulthood, as statutory services fail to recognise
their needs, a new report from the Children's Society warns.
The protection and support of childhood are too often "stripped
away" as teenagers "face huge life challenges", says the report
Seriously Awkward, published today. This is partly owing
to "dangerous inconsistencies in the law, and alarming inadequacies
in services", but also because they are failed by professionals,
who may see them as "troublesome rather than in need".
It warns that teenagers' reluctance to engage with the statutory
services is "mistakenly perceived by professionals as a signal that
help is not needed. . . In the worst cases, they can be seen as
beyond help, and left to go it alone."
Those aged 16 and 17 are more likely than any other age group to
be known to services as "children in need" because of abuse and
neglect at home, to go missing, or to be victims of violent crime.
They are particularly vulnerable to sexual abuse, exploitation, and
trafficking. The report estimates that about half a million of them
face at least five risk-factors.
Inconsistencies in the law include the fact that the Children
and Young Persons Act (1933) does not include this age group in
legal protection from child cruelty.
A poll of 1000 16- and 17-year-olds carried out for the report
found that those from poor backgrounds reported higher levels of
unhappiness than those whose families were well off: 39 per cent to
81 per cent.
The Children's Society is calling for legal changes, including
amendment of the Housing Act so that 16- and 17-year-olds cannot be
evicted from accommodation and become "intentionally homeless"; and
also for a right to support from mental-health services when they
"We see behind the armour teenagers so often put on to shield
themselves," the charity's CEO, Matthew Reid, writes in a foreword
to the report. That armour "makes them seem difficult, when what
they need most is someone who cares".