Family court judge praises Airbnb-hosted teen after being picked up by council

A family court judge has hailed the “strength of character” of a “vulnerable” teenager who spent nearly eight months under constant surveillance in an Airbnb after being picked up by the council.

Judge Joanna Vincent heard how the boy, now 15 and in the care of Oxfordshire County Council, had lived in four different ‘placements’ over around two and a half years.

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

She said he must have left his hamster, laptop and bicycle behind – and hadn’t gotten 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 outlined details of the case in a written decision posted online, following private Family Court hearings in Oxford, and said the teenager could not be identified in media reports on the case.

She said she didn’t think social services staff could have ‘worked harder’ to improve the boy’s ‘situation’.

Judge said staff had ‘worked tirelessly’ to find a ‘regulated placement’ that would meet their needs

But she said it couldn’t bring the boy “much comfort”.

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

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

A family court judge told how a boy had to abandon his pet hamster after leaving a 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 hamster, his laptop and his bicycle.

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

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

“In order to protect him from harming himself, significant restrictions have been put in place.

“He was supervised by adults at all times and could not go out alone.

“His phone use and access to money was monitored and sometimes restricted.”

She said the council had sought court orders allowing staff to “interfere” with the boy’s human right to liberty if they deemed it necessary to protect his well-being.

“(The boy) told me that even though there were adults with him at all times, they didn’t take care of him,” Judge said.

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

“He didn’t see other kids his age.

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

“All the time he was waiting for news of a move to another placement.

“It’s a lot for anyone to handle and he showed great strength of character.”

The judge added: “I don’t think the local authority could have worked harder to improve the situation for (the boy).

“However, that can’t bring much comfort to (the boy), who stayed in the Airbnb for just under eight months.

“(He) is a vulnerable youngster who needed and deserved much better care.

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