ESSEX County Council was operating a “flawed practice” of turning homeless children away from care, a hearing found.

It comes after a successful judicial review challenge brought on behalf of a 16-year-old homeless child by Coram Children’s Legal Centre in Colchester.

It related to the Essex Young People’s Partnership, a housing gateway introduced by Essex County Council’s social services department in June 2017.

It is understood to be a gateway where young adults at risk of homelessness can find accommodation and support.

However, the legal centre’s case work revealed the county council was avoiding duties of care.

When the 16-year-old presented as homeless she was not informed of her entitlements to accommodation and support.

Having come from a difficult family background she did not want to be placed in family-based foster care, however, Essex County Council told her she did not have entitlements to social care input if she refused to be placed in foster care.

The council admitted what they told her was wrong.

The Looked After Child regime under the Children Act says accommodation of any type can be arranged for a homeless child so long as it has proper regard to the child’s needs.

Local authorities are obliged to provide accommodation, financial and emotional support.

Essex County Council apologised and said decisions over accommodation are now being made without involvement of the gateway.

It has also trained social workers involved in assessing teenagers to ensure they are aware of the range of accommodation and support.

Kelly Everett, senior solicitor at Coram Children’s Legal Centre, said: “This settlement agreement provides the child with important protections and support just as she turns 18.

“We hope this ensures other homeless children who ask Essex to help them will not face the same obstacles.

“Although no audit will be carried out into the number of children affected by Essex’s practises, it is our hope other children who were denied protections will be able to seek the support they are entitled to.”

A spokesman for Essex County Council said: “We hope we have reached an agreement with the claimant to settle this matter, but it is subject to approval by the court and we believe it is not appropriate to comment further unless and until the court have approved the proposed terms.”