Homeless 16 and 17 Year Olds
SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This chapter addresses issue of homeless 16 and 17 year olds and, in particular, the roles and responsibilities of Children's and Housing Services.
Government Guidance regarding the Provision of Accommodation for 16 and 17 year old Young People who may be Homeless and/or Require Accommodation.
A Local Joint Protocol has been agreed regarding Homeless16/17 Year Olds, in Hertfordshire (along with Care Leavers and Intentionally Homeless Families) See Hertfordshire Joint Housing Protocol. Associated documents and forms are also available in the Documents Library.
A Guide for Homeless 16 & 17 year olds is also available.
Please note that as from April 1st 2013 Community Care Grants and Crisis Loans will cease to exist. A new Hertfordshire Welfare Assistance Scheme will be in place, which will be launched with a communications strategy.
AMENDMENTIn September 2015, a link to the May 2015 Hertfordshire Joint Housing Protocol was added to this chapter (above). A link to an information leaflet for homeless 16 & 17 year olds was also added (above).
1. Homeless 16 and 17 Year Olds
This guidance takes fully into account the judgment in the House of Lords, (R(G) v Southwark LBC in May 2009. This ruling clarified the responsibility of children's services for accommodating homeless young people aged 16 and 17 under the Children Act 1989. It made clear that children's services should:
- 'Presume that any lone, homeless child should be provided with accommodation under S.20 unless the child is not (based on an initial screening assessment) a child in need.';
- 'The children Act has primacy over the Housing Act in providing for children in need';
- The Southwark Judgment also emphasised the continuing duty of housing and children's services to collaborate in the discharge of their duties to children and young people;
- Please refer to the Joint Housing Protocol.
If a young person is assessed as having their welfare significantly prejudiced without helping her/him with housing support, Children's Services can make S17 payments in the short-term, with the expectation that all benefits will be claimed.
The initial point of contact for a young person presenting as homeless to children's services will be the Customer Service Centre, who will pass the referral to Targeted Youth Services.
A Child and Family Assessment must be initiated and a decision made with regard to the young person's S.20 status. Emergency assistance with a Bed & Breakfast placement may be provided, however, this needs Head of Service agreement. Brokerage Team must be informed using the appropriate form) and any B&B placement must not last longer than 6 weeks and alternatives should be actively considered during this time. The Brokerage Team must be informed when the B&B placement ends.
The Money Advice Unit can advise on which benefits can be claimed during the interim period and what process can be used, depending on whether the young person is in education or not. In exceptional circumstances, a top-up to Housing Benefit may be paid during this interim period until the S20 decision is made, though a claim for Housing Benefit is not likely to be feasible for a very short period e.g. 7 working days. Sec. 20 and Sec. 31 young people should be paid a maintenance allowance as set out in the Leaving Care Service Financial Policy CSF 4563.
2. The Duties of Housing and Children's Services Regarding Homeless 16 and 17 Year Olds
Where the local authority housing department has reason to believe a young person may be homeless they must immediately assess the housing need of the applicant and provide interim housing if needed.
If this identifies a need for "somewhere to live" or for "a roof over their head" then the Housing Authority must meet that need and provide housing. This will be the exception rather than the rule.
If they appear to require more than the usual support available to a homeless 16/17 year old then the Housing Authority must refer them to the Customer Service Centre, who will pass the referral to Targeted Youth Services (TYS) for an assessment of their needs as a possible child in need.
Targeted Youth Services (TYS) must carry out a Section 17 assessment of need (under the Children Act 1989) and must include their need for somewhere to live and whether this requires them to be provided with care and accommodation under Section 20(1).
It is possible for TYS to reach a decision either:
- That a 16 or 17 year old requires help with accommodation, in other words provision of financial support for the payment of a deposit or social work support to find somewhere appropriate to live under Section 17; or
- That if care and accommodation is required for a vulnerable child in need where the Section 20 criteria are met and accommodation is provided that this must be provided under Section 20.
The 3 criteria for accommodation are specified in Section 20 (1) as follows:
- Every local authority shall provide accommodation for any child in need within their area as a result of:
- There being no person who has PR for him;
- The child being lost or abandoned; or
- The person who has been caring for him being prevented from providing him with suitable accommodation or care (temporarily or permanently).
There is a further test in relation to 16 and 17 year olds, as follows:
- Every local authority shall provide accommodation for any child in need within their area who has reached the age of sixteen and whose welfare the authority consider is likely to be seriously prejudiced if they do not provide him with accommodation Section 20(3).
Section 20(6) states that before providing accommodation under this section, a local authority shall, so far as is reasonably practicable and consistent with the child's welfare:
- Ascertain the child's wishes regarding the provision of accommodation; and
Give due consideration (having regard to his age and understanding) to such wishes of the child as they have been able to ascertain.
Even however if a 16 or 17 year old states that they do not want to be provided with accommodation (under Section 20) by Targeted Youth Services (TYS) this is not the determinative factor if in all the circumstances the Section 20 criteria are met when accommodation must then be provided under Section 20.
There are alternatives where homeless 16/17 year olds are children in need. Sometimes a young person is resourceful and requires a certain degree of support but it is not sufficiently vulnerable so as to need to be provided with care and accommodation under Section 20.
Targeted Youth Services (TYS) can then discharge the local authority's duty towards this child in need by providing help with accommodation which is permissible under Section 17 and no duty under Section 20 arises.
In this case the homeless 16/17 year old remains a priority applicant for housing and the housing duty is provided under the Housing Act 1996.
In other cases it is clear that the Section 20 criteria are met and children's social care needs to provide care and accommodation. In these cases it is not possible to provide help with accommodation under Section 17 and accommodation must be provided under Section 20.
The guidance above was developed in response to two related Court rulings:
- R (on the application of M) v London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham 2008; and
- R (on the application of G) v London Borough of Southwark 2009 in the House of Lords.