Lance Scott Walker: Holloway teen’s killing could lead to regulation of private sector supported housing

Lance Scott Walker.

Lance Scott Walker. - Credit: Archant

The manslaughter of a Holloway teen by his flatmate in unregulated supported housing has exposed a black hole in how social services are regulated, according to health chiefs.

Idris Hassan.

Idris Hassan. - Credit: Archant

Lance Scott Walker, 18, was under the care of Islington Council when he was killed by Idris Hassan, also 18, in August 2016. Hassan admitted killing him on grounds of diminished responsibility and is serving an indefinite hospital order.

Now a hard-hitting report by the Ealing Safeguarding Adults Board has made a host of recommendations to prevent another tragedy taking place – including calling on the government to regulate supported accommodation facilities through planning permission and accreditation for providers.

The pair lived in the unregulated hostel in Hayes, Hillingdon, and on that day Hassan walked into an office where Lance was chatting with a carer and stabbed him in the back twice.

Lance managed to escape through the window but collapsed on the ground where Hassan knifed him repeatedly.

Hassan, an Ealing Council care leaver, was schizophrenic and had been detained under the Mental Health Act in October 2015 before being discharged from hospital the following May. He had convictions for having a blade in public and violence, and was referred after being found with an Isis booklet.

He was off medication when he attacked Lance, and Lance’s aunt Patricia O’Neill feels both boys were failed by Islington and Ealing social services.

She told the Gazette last year Lance had been there for seven months and along with another boy – not Hassan – was doing “fantastically well” with the support of a live-in carer.

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Islington Council said it now asks for more assurances surrounding vulnerable youngsters living together.

Much like the housing sector, a severe lack of provision means sometimes councils have to place vulnerable people in supported accommodation in the private sector, which is unregulated.

Board chair Sheila Lock said many of the findings had national implications. She said: “We believe this report provides some significant findings at a local and national level to assist us in taking steps to safeguard other young adults from harm.”

Ealing’s report touched on the national challenge around a lack of suitable placements and beds for youngsters with complex needs and found there was insufficient planning across London boroughs for the most at-risk young people.

“In the context of extremely limited choice it is hard to ensure that places are selected and commissioned in good quality provision,” it stated. “The absence of inspection of such establishments makes quality hard to access.”

In addition, Brent Council had already stopped using the hostel in question following concerns, but had not told other councils meaning Islington and Ealing were unaware of potential issues.

In terms of regulation, it found the lack of inspections meant it was hard to assess the quality of accommodation, and the board suggest planning permission should be a requirement for such housing, and that providers should need qualifications. Risk assessments should also be carried out when youngster with “competing needs” are to live together, the board found.

Islington Council also investigated why Lance was placed in the accommodation, as well as officers’ involvement with him while he was there.

A spokesperson said: “Some of our staff worked closely with Lance and his family and have offered their deepest sympathies.

“We thoroughly investigated our role and contributed a management review.

“We welcome its conclusions and recommendations, and have also raised the need for greater regulation of these kinds of supported accommodation at strategic London-wide meetings.

“Since this terrible tragedy we have put additional safeguards in place, above and beyond those required by legislation and best practice guidance. These have increased the level of assurance needed from placement providers about the impact a new resident may have on those already living there.”

An Ealing Council spokesperson said: “A key finding of the review was the non-regulation of supported accommodation for young people and this is what has been raised with the secretary of state for health and social care, with a request to review and consider putting into place regulation similar to that already in place in children’s homes to comply with standards and expectations and be subject to regular inspection.”

The report also found the case illustrated the complex needs of some youngsters and the difficulty for professionals who support them while also managing risks presented to and by them. Staff found Hassan “likeable” but his cooperation reduced as his mental health decreased. It stated there was no “direct evidence” mental health treatment or medication would have prevented the incident.

The Department of Health and Social Care did not respond to a request for comment

A report on future funding of supported housing by the Department for Communities and Local Government and Work and Pensions committees last year did touch on regulation.

It said regulation was much better in Scotland than in England, where councils said providers don’t have to adhere to their guidelines.

The report stated: “While the majority of this provision is of a very high standard, some tenants told us there were schemes of a disappointingly poor quality. This can have especially damaging consequences for the most vulnerable tenants.

“There is currently limited oversight of the quality of provision in some areas, especially in England, and the government is right to focus on this issue in its funding proposals.”