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3.4 Provision of Accommodation to Homeless 16 and 17 Year Olds


This chapter was updated in January 2019.


  1. Introduction
  2. First Contact
  3. Child and Family Assessment under the Assessment Framework for Children in Need
  4. Outcome of the Child and Family Assessment
  5. Following the Child and Family Assessment
  6. Provision of Accommodation by Housing
  7. Young People Who are Found Intentionally Homeless
  8. Benefits and Financial Support
  9. Immigration and Eligibility for Services
  10. Compliance with the Southwark Judgement

1. Introduction

The Housing Code of Guidance 2006 states that all homeless 16 and 17 year olds are a priority group. Under the Children Act 1989, 16 and 17 year olds are entitled to an assessment under Section 17 of this Act and may be eligible for services if they are children in need. The Prevention of Homelessness and provision of accommodation for 16 and 17 year old young people who may be Homeless and/ or require accommodation guidance 2018 should be considered.

In Waltham Forest, a joint Housing and Children & Families process has been implemented, this process has been set up to assess and support this age group and to prevent young people becoming homeless.

An underlying principle is that wherever possible and appropriate, young people will be encouraged to remain or return to their home and be supported by local agencies to do so.

This protocol does not apply to 16 &17 year olds who are parents, as their housing needs will be considered under the procedure for other homeless families although a Child and Family Assessment may be carried out by the Children in Need Team at Waltham Forest.

2. First Contact

  • If the young person is ordinarily resident in Waltham Forest and does not already have an allocated worker in Children and Families;
  • 16/17 Homelessness cases that develop into a requirement to accommodate a young person under s20 or via legal proceedings will be referred to the Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) unless the Children in Need or the Children in Care teams are already involved with the young person;
  • Young people who do not live in the borough or who already have an allocated social worker elsewhere will be directed to the relevant authority in which they live or back to their own worker;
  • A joint process map is in place which should be followed for all times for 16/17 young people requesting accommodation.

3. Child and Family Assessment under the Assessment Framework for Children in Need

  1. Referrals of 16 &17 year olds are treated as any other referral of a child in need and subject to the relevant screening and checks processes;
  2. Where the young person is presenting as homeless or facing homelessness a Child and Family Assessment will be initiated and completed within the agreed timescales;
  3. A meeting with the young person’s parent/carers will be arranged within 48 hours of the first contact as part of the Assessment. The focus of this meeting will be on reconciliation and mediation and to encourage the young person to remain at or return home;
  4. The young person should remain living at home or at their current address (if they are not at home) until the assessment is completed unless there is evidence that in doing so would place the young person at risk of significant harm;
  5. Parent/carers are expected to be involved in the assessment process and the worker undertaking the assessment will need to explain the procedure to them as well as to the young person;
  6. Proof of the young person’s connection to Waltham Forest must be established as part of the Assessment. Under Housing rules, young people whose parents are not living in the borough may be considered to be the responsibility of that authority and should be referred onto the relevant authority if they require housing accommodation;
  7. Proof of identity, income and any benefits they are receiving or received on their behalf (e.g. child benefit, income support, Disability Living Allowance) and their connection to Waltham Forest must be established as part of the Assessment. Parents will need to be advised that if the young person does not return home, the Benefits Agency will be notified of this;
  8. Immigration and Eligibility for services also needs to be established;
  9. The Assessment will look at the reasons why a young person is having difficulty living at or returning home and the worker carrying out the Assessment will offer mediation (if this is considered practical) to the young person and their family in order to resolve current difficulties. Where appropriate, a referral on to other support services will also be considered;
  10. The Assessment will take into consideration the outcomes and implications of the Southwark Judgement;
  11. If the young person appears to be at risk of abuse/neglect, sexual exploitation or from gang activity, then the Pan-London Child Protection procedures will be followed.

4. Outcome of the Child and Family Assessment

  1. If the young person can remain living at home or return home they should do so with the arrangement of any appropriate support. i.e. youth support services and specialist services, if required;
  2. If they cannot return home, then other appropriate family members or friends identified in the Assessment should be considered and the young person and their family supported to make such arrangements between themselves. N.B. Where social care place the young people with friends or family and/or become involved in financially supporting such a placement, this may create duties under the Fostering Regulations and/or Leaving Care Act;
  3. Where 3.a and 3.b above cannot be achieved, then assistance via housing or social care provision should then be arranged. The Southwark Judgement (May 2009) has introduced the presumption that most young people needing accommodation who are estranged from their parents, will require support via the social care section 20 route rather than the housing route. Individual decisions regarding section 20 are made with reference to the circumstances of the young person and the outcome of the Assessment;
  4. Where the outcome of the Assessment and discussion with the young person establishes the housing route as the most appropriate outcome, the completed Assessment will be made available to Housing Team to request temporary accommodation;
  5. Amongst the majority of 16/17 year olds requesting help with homelessness, will be a number of more vulnerable young people with higher levels of need. For example, young people with a learning disability; mental health needs; leaving a Young Offenders Institution or with a previous history of abuse/neglect and/or of being in care. These are the cases where accommodation under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989 will usually be the appropriate route and the authorisation for this will be sought from the relevant Designated Senior Manager.

5. Following the Child and Family Assessment

In order to ensure that practice is compliant with the Southwark Judgement, the professional who completed the assessment will meet again with a young person once a decision has been made regarding their eligibility or otherwise to housing accommodation.

The professional will explain to the young person the benefits of and differences between the services provided under s17 and s20.

The young person will be asked to confirm their preference in writing. The young person will be advised that he/ she can change their mind about which option they want to follow by discussing it with their case responsible professional.

6. Provision of Accommodation by Housing

  1. When the outcome of the Assessment/intervention is that the young person cannot return home (because it is not safe for them to do so or the parent is refusing to allow them to live at home) then the criteria under S20 is made out;
  2. If after discussion with the young person they do not wish to be accommodated and it has been assessed that their needs can be adequately met by being supported under s.17 of the Children Act then the young person will be referred to the dedicated Homelessness Officer to take an approach under Part VII of the Housing Act 1996. On receipt of the referral and assessment from Children and Families, the dedicated Homelessness Officer will arrange an appointment with the young person. It is important that the young person takes the necessary documents to this appointment;
  3. If the young person requires temporary accommodation immediately (i.e. there is an interim duty to provide accommodation) the dedicated Homelessness Officer will advise the duty senior as per the Temporary Accommodation Work Instruction. The exception to this will be where 3f applies;
  4. Where a young person is placed in temporary accommodation (in or outside the borough) while further enquiries are carried out, they must be advised to remain in the emergency accommodation provided on a daily basis or they will be considered as no longer in need and intentionally homeless (see 6.f below);
  5. Young people will be advised of the accommodation rules regarding residence, payment and behaviour and that any breach of these may result in the withdrawal of accommodation and a decision being taken that they are intentionally homeless;
  6. If the young person is unintentionally homeless, has a local connection and is eligible, the dedicated Homelessness Officer will liaise with one of the specialist housing providers and will make arrangements for securing accommodation for the young person;
  7. For intentionally homeless applicants, the Housing Department will follow the Assessing Intentionality protocol;
  8. The dedicated Homelessness Officer will maintain details of the waiting list for each scheme and will contact the applicant to progress admission.

7. Young People Who are Found Intentionally Homeless

  1. Young people who are accepted for housing and then found to be intentionally homeless will have their accommodation withdrawn by Housing. While there is no further duty to accommodation, the young person will be advised by responsible professional of their right to apply to Housing for a review of the decision to withdraw accommodation. In some circumstances, temporary accommodation may be arranged pending the review;
  2. If a finding of intentional homelessness is upheld by the review, housing will not provide further accommodation. Social care will then need to consider whether there are any circumstances such as those outlined in “Outcome of the Assessment” that would lead them to provide further services under section 17 or section 20.

8. Benefits and Financial Support

  1. Young people must make a benefit application claim in order to secure an income and housing benefit;
  2. Young people who are not of school leaving age when homeless, are normally prevented from receiving benefits until their official leaving date in June and may require temporary financial support from social care while eligibility for benefits is explored with Youth Support Service;
  3. A letter from the Children and Families Service advising the Youth Support Service and benefits agency of the young person’s estrangement from their family (if this is the outcome of the Assessment) will be issued to the young person to assist their benefit application;
  4. It may take up to 6 weeks before a young person receives benefits they are eligible for. Parents are expected to be financially responsible for the young person during the transition stage and will still be in receipt of child benefit and may also be receiving income support for them;
  5. If the young person will be destitute pending a benefits application, Section 17 funding (as per C&F Section 17 Procedure) may be used to meet essential living needs and accommodation charges (if applicable);
  6. The children and families worker will liaise with the Benefits Agency and the Housing Benefit Agency regarding the start and progress of the benefit claim and ensure that the young person is clear about the charges and costs that the young person will be responsible for;
  7. If the young person is supported by Housing, the dedicated Housing Officer in Assessments & Options will ensure that a Housing Benefit Application Form is completed and will advise the young person of the benefits they can expect and be clear about the charges and costs that they are responsible for;
  8. The Children’s and Families worker will write to the Benefits Agency informing them of the changed circumstances of the young person and send a copy of this letter to the young person and their parents.

9. Immigration and Eligibility for Services

Young people who have no current leave to remain in the UK or proof of identity or leave to remain, cannot normally access housing services or benefits, and further consideration will need to be given to their vulnerability if assessed as homeless and estranged from their family. Unaccompanied minors who have not applied for asylum must be referred directly to the Home Office in Croydon for assistance. Under the duty rota referral system Children Services may be asked to undertake an assessment of a person who alleges to be a child. Alternatively, requests can be received by a young person’s solicitor or where it appears the person is under 18 years of age.

In some circumstances EC nationals are eligible for housing services and benefits but this will depend on their family’s circumstances including length of stay in UK, and employment status and employment/benefit history in UK, and further advice would need to be taken from Assessments & Options and possibly legal services on their eligibility for housing support before making a referral. Again vulnerability (see 5. below) has to be considered if ineligible and homeless.

10. Compliance with the Southwark Judgement

In light of the Southwark judgment, the following “Croydon questions” need to be considered in the Assessment:

  1. Is the applicant a child?
  2. Is the applicant a child in need? This will often require careful assessment. In this case it is common ground that A is a child in need, essentially because he is homeless. It is, perhaps, possible to envisage circumstances in which a 16 or 17 year old that is temporarily without accommodation is nevertheless not in need within the meaning of section. For example an independent young person who lost his home because of a flood;
  3. Is he within the local authority’s area?
  4. Does he appear to the local authority to require accommodation? But there may be cases where the child does have a home to go to, whether on his own or with family or friends, but needs help in getting there, or getting into it, or in having it made habitable or safe. This is the line between needing “help with accommodation” (not in itself a technical term) and needing “accommodation";
  5. Is that need the result of:
    1. There being no person who has parental responsibility for him; for example, where his parents were unmarried, his father does not have parental responsibility, and his mother had died without appointing a guardian for him;
    2. His being lost or having been abandoned; or
    3. The person who has been caring for him being prevented from providing him with suitable accommodation or care. This includes children excluded from home.
  6. What are the child’s wishes and feelings regarding the provision of accommodation for him? This is a reference to the requirement in section 20(6) of the 1989 Act, as amended by section 53(2) of the Children Act 2004:
    “Before providing accommodation under this section, a local authority shall, as far as is reasonably practicable and consistent with the child’s welfare:
    1. Ascertain the child’s wishes and feelings regarding the provision of accommodation; and
    2. Give due consideration (having regard to his age and understanding) to such wishes and feelings of the child as they have been able to ascertain.”
  7. What consideration (having regard to his age and understanding) is duly to be given to those wishes and feelings?
  8. Does any person with parental responsibility who is willing to provide accommodation for him object to the local authority intervention?
  9. If there is an objection, does the person in whose favour a Child Arrangements Order is in force agree to the child being looked after?

The two different legal routes and service that follow these for assisting a young person facing homelessness will be clearly explained to them by the worker carrying out the initial assessment. This will be discussed with them again once a decision has been made regarding entitlement for housing and/or where the young person has been found intentionally homeless.

There would be very few circumstances in which the Local Authority would accommodate a young person using Section 20 without their agreement and legal advice would be sought in such cases.

In order to ensure that practice is compliant with the Southwark Judgement, a children and families member of the team will meet with a young person following Assessment, once a decision has been made regarding their eligibility or otherwise to housing accommodation.