Get help if you are homeless and under 18 years old 

I’m under 18

This page explains what it means to be homeless and under 18 years old, your rights and how to get help.

Young people who become homeless at 16 or 17 are protected by different areas of the law which entitle you to support with your housing. An assessment needs to be completed to find out which piece of legislation applies to your situation.

Can Doorstep help me?

If you are under 18 years old and you tell us that you have nowhere to stay tonight, or that your housing situation is not secure and there is a risk of homelessness, we have a legal duty to let children’s services know. Once you have been assessed by children’s services and it has been decided that supported housing is the best option for you, we will be sent a referral by the local council to consider you for housing. We are not able to house anyone under 18 until this process has been completed.

The 16/17 year old joint protocol

There is an agreement between children’s services and the homeless prevention service to assess 16 and 17 year olds for housing to agree on the best housing pathway.

If you are under 18 and need housing, you have a right to have your situation looked at by a social worker; this is called a Section 17 Child in Need assessment. The process takes a number of weeks, and a social worker will gather all the information about your situation in order to make a decision on your housing.

Children’s services are trying to find out if you are at risk by staying or returning home, or, if your family are saying you can no longer live there.

Will I go in to care?

For some young people, if they become homeless at 16 or 17, their situation means they are legally owed a social worker to help them until they are 18. This is called being a ‘child in need’ and the support stops when you turn 18. Being recognised as a child in need means that the local council has a duty to help you with your housing. In some circumstances the child in need assessment could recommend that the best option for you is to become ‘looked after’. This does not mean you will go in to foster care, but it does mean you will have extra support from children’s services until you are 18 and further support past the age of 18.

Homeless Link have provided more information about how we should support 16 and 17 year olds who are homeless which you can read.

We have also created our own shorter version of the guidance so that you can understand our duty to you.

Who pays for my housing?

Once the child in need assessment has been completed, there will be a decision made about which law will support you in accessing housing. This could be the Children Act 1989 or the Housing Act 1996.

If you are to be housed under the Children Act, and you are to become ‘looked after’ or a ‘child in need’, then children’s services have a duty to pay for your support and accommodation.

If you are to be housed under the Housing Act, and you are not deemed to be a ‘looked after child’ or ‘child in need’, you can access housing benefit/universal credit to help you with your rent.

Can I rent my own house or flat?

Under 18s are not legally able to sign or ‘hold’ their own tenancy. This is why your access to housing needs to be supported by ‘statutory’ agencies such as the council, and then further supported by landlords like Doorstep. This also affects the type of housing you can access.

Typically you can only access housing where there is 24-hour supervision such as a hostel or supported lodgings. Some young people, with support from children’s services, have been able to rent a house or a flat through Doorstep before they turn 18. These are exceptions to the rule and not the norm.

For young people who are under 18 and expecting a baby, we will offer a house or flat once the child in need assessment has been completed and we have been sent a referral.

Contacting children’s services

If you are in immediate danger, or you are concerned about someone who is, you should dial 999 and ask for the police, ambulance or fire brigade.

If you are concerned about your own situation, you can call Doorstep or you can call children’s services directly:

  • 01472 326292 (option 2, option 2)
  • Monday to Thursday 8.30am to 5pm and Friday 8.30am – 4.30pm

You can also get confidential support from Childline on 0800 1111 and at www.childline.org.uk

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