Accommodation Support for Young People Leaving Care

1. Principles

1.1 Young people aged 16 and 17 eligible under the Children (Leaving Care) Act

Payment of the accommodation costs of young people under the age of 18 who meet the criteria of the Children (Leaving Care) Act is the responsibility of the Council. They are not entitled to Housing Benefit.

The Council will pay accommodation support costs and any heating and lighting costs included in the rent, but will not pay for meals. The young person must pay for these themselves.

1.2 Staying Put

Under the Care Leavers (England) Regulations 2010 and Planning Transition into Adulthood for Care Leavers Guidance, the Local Authority must provide information about extending placements post-18, covering:

  • The criteria for such extensions;
  • How extending placements will impact on the allowances provided by the Local Authority and whether other funding, e.g. funding for housing related support, will contribute to meeting placement costs;
  • Any financial contributions from the young person from their wages, salary, benefits or educational allowances;
  • How the income tax, national insurance and welfare benefits situation of carers may be affected by post-18 payments;
  • Insurance issues including liability and household;
  • The impact on foster carers' fostering registration limits and status;
  • Safeguarding arrangements including DBS checks on over 18 year olds and issues relating to fostered children in households.

Young People in Foster Care

For a young person living in foster care, the first Looked After Review following his or her 16th birthday should consider whether a Staying Put Arrangement should be an option. This will entail assessing the implications for both the young person and the foster carer.

Following the young person's 18th birthday, the legal basis on which they occupy the property (former foster home) changes (the legal term is that the young person becomes an 'excluded licensee' lodging in the home) - this should not denote that the young person will be treated differently than they were as a fostered child.

Procedures should be agreed at the outset about how any wish by the carer to bring the arrangements to an end should be managed.

While Fostering Regulations will no longer legally apply to these arrangements, key standards should continue to govern the expectations of the placement when the young person reaches 18. These will be:

  • Yearly reviews of the carer(s);
  • Reassessment and re-registration every 3 years;
  • New DBS checks every 3 years on all adult members of the household, regular visitors and children of the carers aged 16 and over;
  • Health and safety checks;
  • Regular supervision from the social worker;
  • Attending required training.

The Local Authority will assess individual circumstances and consider the appropriateness of all of these checks particularly where the young person is the only person placed/living with their carer/s and it is not envisaged that further children will be placed.

1.3 Young People aged 18 or over.

  1. Young people leaving care at 18 who are not in work or full-time education and have a claim for Income Support, Jobseeker's Allowance or Incapacity Benefit are entitled to claim Housing Benefit in the normal way. Young people receiving a training allowance from a training provider are eligible for Housing Benefit;
  2. Young people leaving care who are over 18 and in higher education will have their rent paid by the Pathway Team if they are not eligible for housing;
  3. Young people who are 18 years old, in full-time Further Education and claiming Income Support are eligible for Housing Benefit. They stop being eligible for both Income Support and Housing Benefit on their 19th birthday;
  4. Young people leaving care who are over 19 and in full-time further education will receive accommodation support.

1.4 Bonds

Bond applications should be made as part of the Leaving Care Grant application. Young people over 18 should apply in the first instance to Smartmove.

2. Identifying Suitable Accommodation

The Leaving Care Worker will be responsible for identifying suitable accommodation with the young person, in line with the Pathway Plan and with the support and assistance of other members of the Pathway Planning Group.

Young people aged 17 and under will not be placed in Bed and Breakfast Accommodation. Only in very exceptional circumstances should young people leaving care be placed in Bed and Breakfast Accommodation. This will only occur when a young person aged 18 or over presents as homeless to the housing officer and the housing department having no other suitable accommodation makes the offer of Bed and Breakfast Accommodation.

Accommodation costs must be reasonable. "Reasonable" will be defined according to Housing Benefit standards. It is the responsibility of the Pathway Worker to ensure the costs meet the standards which are as follows: 

Housing Benefit advises that Housing Associations' rents are already set at Housing Benefit "reasonable" rates, and therefore do not need to be individually confirmed by Housing Benefit. However workers should ensure that the accommodation matches occupancy rates i.e. a single person should not take a tenancy on two- bedroomed accommodation.

Supported Lodgings scheme rates are also agreed in advance by Housing Benefit, and therefore do not need to be checked.

Where a young person wishes to take a private tenancy, the Pathway Worker should ask Housing Benefit Section whether a reasonable rent has been agreed for this property. If there is no reasonable rent, Housing Benefit will send a Pre-tenancy Determination Form to the worker for completion, in order that the Rent Officer may determine a reasonable rent.

Single Room Rent rules will continue to apply to young people not on care orders. The Single Room Rent rule states that the maximum rent to be used in Housing Benefit calculations for single claimants under the age of 22 is the Single Room Rent (i.e. single room with shared use of toilet and kitchen) unless the young person:

  • Was on a care order;
  • Lives in a housing association property.

Pathway Workers must ensure that young people under 18 are aware of this before allowing them to take tenancies in the deregulated private sector.

Prospective landlords should be advised that the Council will pay the accommodation costs direct, and that payment will be by invoice in arrears. They will be provided with an order number, which must be quoted on the invoice.

If the landlord refuses to accept these terms or if there is a reason why it is preferable for the young person to receive the rent direct, the Leaving Care Worker should gain agreement from the Pathway Team Manager.

In exceptional cases the Pathway Team Manager may agree to make payment in a different way. The Pathway Team Manager will record any decision as a management decision on the young person's CASS record. For procedures for payments in advance see Section 7, Reviewing Arrangements.

3. Unregulated Accommodation

If a Relevant Young Person or Eligible Young Person moves to 'unregulated' accommodation (i.e. accommodation that is not regulated/inspected by OFSTED), the Local Authority must:

  1. Arrange a review 28 days (or as soon as practicable thereafter) from the time the accommodation is provided; and
  2. Determine at what intervals (not exceeding six months) subsequent reviews will be carried out;
  3. Reviews should be brought forward where there is an assessed risk that a crisis may develop in a young person's life, for example:
    • Where a young person has been charged with an offence and there is a possibility of their being sentenced to custody, which will risk losing their accommodation;
    • Where a young person is at risk of being evicted from his or her accommodation or otherwise threatened with homelessness;
    • Where professionals are concerned about the parenting capacity of a 'Relevant' or 'Eligible' young person with there being a possibility that their own child may need to be the subject of a multi-agency safeguarding plan;
    • Where a young person requests a review.

Matters to which the Local Authority is to have regard in determining suitability of accommodation (under Schedule 2 to the Care Leavers Regulations 2010 and Schedule 6 of the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review Regulations 2010):

  1.  In respect of the accommodation:
    1. The facilities and services provided;
    2. The state of repair;
    3. The safety;
    4. The location;
    5. The support;
    6. The tenancy status; and
    7. The financial commitments involved for the relevant young person and their affordability.
  2.  In respect of the Relevant young person:
    1. His or her views about the accommodation;
    2. His or her understanding of their rights and responsibilities in relation to the accommodation; and
    3. His or her understanding of funding arrangements.

4. Making an Application for a Bond

The Leaving Care Personal Worker should ascertain from the prospective landlord whether a bond will be required.

Bonds are paid through the Setting up Home Grant.

5. Making an Application for Accommodation Costs

For young people over 18, the Pathway Worker, in consultation with the young person, should determine whether the best interests of the young person would be best served by paying the rent direct to the landlord (see Accommodation Costs Application Form) or to the young person.

The Pathway Worker will complete a Financial Pathway Plan with clear start and end dates.

Where the proposed accommodation does not have a known end date, the Pathway Worker should put the date of the young person's 18th birthday for young people aged 16 or 17.

The Team Manager Leaving Care Team should authorise the Financial Pathway Plan. Where accommodation is provided by an independent provider and is commissioned by Children's Social Care, the Pathway Team Manager will ensure that the necessary orders are raised on the financial system in order to process invoices accordingly.

6. Making Payments

The landlord will be required to send the invoice to the Leaving Care Team.

Within 5 working days of receipt, the Team Manager, Pathway Team will sign the invoice to confirm that the service has been received by the young person. The Admin Officer will process the invoice to ensure payment is made.

7. Reviewing Arrangements

It is the ongoing responsibility of the Pathway Worker to ensure that the young person continues to live at the accommodation, that it remains suitable and that the rent being paid is correct.

The young person's accommodation must be reviewed at each Pathway Planning Review.

To amend accommodation costs the Pathway Worker should complete a new Financial Pathway Plan.

It is the responsibility of the Pathway Worker to ensure that the young person is aware that they will be responsible for their own accommodation costs from the age of 18. Where applicable, the Pathway Worker should ensure that the young person's Housing Benefit Application Form is completed and received by Housing Benefit section prior to their 18th birthday.

8. Terminating the Tenancy

The Pathway Worker is responsible for advising and assisting the young person in terminating a tenancy.

9. Reclaiming Bonds

The Pathway Worker should notify the Pathway Admin Officer  if there was a bond attached to the property.

The Pathway Admin Officer is responsible for liaising with the landlord for the recovery of the bond. 

When the bond has been recovered, and if it is not required as a further bond, the Pathway Worker should supervise the young person in spending the money on items they need.

10. Rent Guarantees

Young people under the age of 18 who meet the leaving care criteria under the previous procedures (for details please see Leaving Care Procedure, Appendix 1, Table of Eligibility for Referral to the Leaving Care Team) are entitled to a Rent Guarantee from Children's Social Care Services in order to secure accommodation. 

The Rent Guarantee Letter must be signed by the relevant social work Team Manager. It is the responsibility of the Team Manager to ensure that the young person is entitled to the service.

11. Contingency Plan for Accommodation

As part of a Pathway Plan, a young person requires a contingency plan.

  • Emergency accommodation plans can include staying temporarily with friends and family;
  • In NO circumstances should Bed and Breakfast be identified as a contingency;
  • The Pathway Worker must seek more appropriate accommodation as soon as possible. Funding beyond one month will not be agreed for emergency accommodation unless the Pathway Worker can demonstrate that efforts have been made to resolve the young person's situation.