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1.4.7 Provision of Accommodation for 16 and 17 Year Olds who are Homeless or Threatened with Homelessness

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This is a joint working protocol between Environment and Neighbourhoods Directorate and Children’s Services Directorate regarding the procedure for responding to approaches for assisting 16/17 year old persons who are homeless or threatened with homelessness.

This is a new chapter for December 2010.


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Structure
  3. Homeless Prevention
  4. Assessment: Approach to Leeds Housing Options Service
  5. Assessment: Approach to Children’s Services
  6. Suitability of Temporary Accommodation
  7. Timescales
  8. 16 and 17 Homeless People from another Local Authority Area presenting in Leeds
  9. Young Person’s Wishes and Feelings


1. Introduction

The protocol covers the agreed procedures that Environment and Neighbourhoods Directorate, specifically the Leeds Housing Options Service, and Children’s Services will follow in responding to approaches for assistance from 16/17 year old persons who are homeless or threatened with homelessness.

The provisions included within the protocol reflect the judgement made by the House of Lords in R (G) v Southwark (2009) UKHL 26 and the subsequent guidance produced by the Secretary of State for Schools, Children and Families and the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government relating to local authorities’ duties to 16/17 year olds who are homeless or threatened with homelessness.

The protocol is concerned with the legal duties set out in the 1989 Children Act relating to children in need who require accommodation and Part VII of the 1996 Housing Act (as amended by the 2002 Homelessness Act) relating to people who are homeless/threatened with homelessness who approach the authority requesting housing assistance.

The judgement of the House of Lords reaffirms the legal position that the duty under Section 20 of the 1989 Children Act takes precedence over duties set out in Part VII of the 1996 Housing Act (as amended by the 2002 Homelessness Act) in providing for children in need who require accommodation. The House of Lords judgement also confirms the legal position that the specific duty owed under Section 20 of the 1989 Children Act takes precedence over the general duty owed under Section 17 of the same Act to children in need and their families.

The protocol does not cover the wider responsibilities of Children’s Services and Environment and Neighbourhoods, as a partner Directorate, to identify and support families who are at risk of negative outcomes, including homelessness or housing need, by delivering integrated and targeted services. Such procedures will be set out in a parallel protocol.

The protocol does not cover the joint responsibilities of Children’s Services and Environment and Neighbourhoods in delivering housing related services for young people leaving care. These arrangements will be set out in a parallel protocol.

A key aim of the protocol is to ensure that young people are not passed between the two Directorates whilst a decision is made as to what service should take lead responsibility in responding to their housing need. The protocol will ensure that young people receive a seamless service with Council services working together to respond to their needs.


2. Structure

The protocol will be framed around the key functions of homeless prevention, assessment and accommodation. The protocol will set out some broad criteria relating to the suitability of different accommodation types for young people.

The protocol will set out the requisite action for officers to take where a young person approaches the Leeds Housing Options Service for assistance and where a young person approaches Children’s Services for assistance.

The above paragraph refers to when a young person physically approaches either the Leeds Housing Options Service or Children’s Services for assistance. If an approach is made through either the Leeds City Council Customer Contact Centre, or a One Stop Centre, then a referral will be made to Children’s Service as the legal duties relating to homeless 16 and 17 year olds primarily rest with the directorate. 


3. Homeless Prevention

Leeds City Council believes that, in most circumstances, the interests of young people are best served by living with their parents and that they should move to independent living in a planned way. The initial priority for both the Leeds Housing Options Service and Children’s Services will be to identify whether, a young person who approaches the authority for assistance because they are homeless or threatened with homelessness, can safely return to their parental home.

Leeds City Council commissions a local housing agency, Foundation Housing, to deliver a youth mediation service. The aim of the service is to identify whether a young person can reconcile the differences with their parents/guardians so that they can return home on an indefinite basis or whether they can return to their parental home for a period sufficient to enable them to make a planned move to independent accommodation.

If it is decided that a young person can return to their parental/guardian’s home then no further action will need to be taken by either the Leeds Housing Options Service or Children’s Services.

Case law, Hammersmith and Fulham LBC v Robinson, obliges local housing authorities to activate a homeless application at the same time as a referral for mediation is made. It is not permissible to defer taking a homeless application until the outcome of the mediation process has been completed. Depending on whether the young person presents for assistance at the Leeds Housing Options Service or Children’s Services then the service will activate the appropriate assessment at the same time as a referral for mediation is made.

The Leeds Housing Options Service manages a Homeless Prevention Fund that can be used to cover the cost of a financial intervention that results in a homeless prevention outcome. Such interventions could relate to the payment of a bond/rent in advance to secure a private rented property, assistance with rent/mortgage arrears or with cleaning a property that has become uninhabitable. This list is not exhaustive and each application will be assessed on its individual merits. The key criteria is that the cost of a homeless prevention intervention is less than not intervening: i.e. a temporary accommodation/residential care placement. Applications for the Homeless Prevention Fund should be directed through the Leeds Housing Options Service.


4. Assessment: Approach to Leeds Housing Options Service

If a young person approaches the Leeds Housing Options Service for housing assistance, and state that they are homeless or threatened with homelessness, then the service will activate a homeless application under Part VII of the 1996 Housing Act (as amended).

If it is believed that the young person is eligible for housing assistance, is homeless and has a priority need then the Leeds Housing Options Service will ensure that interim accommodation is secured. A referral for mediation, if appropriate, will be made at the same time.

A young person may be ineligible for housing assistance if they are subject to some form of immigration control or, whilst not subject to immigration control, are still deemed to be a ‘person from abroad’.

A young person may be considered to be ineligible for housing assistance on specific grounds. For example, if they are Asylum Seekers or they are EU nationals who are not working or financially self-sufficient. The duties set out in the 1989 Children Act, relating to homeless 16/17 year olds, supersede the provisions set out in the Part VII 1996 Housing Act (as amended) and therefore Children’s Services will need to make an assessment as to whether the young person is a ‘Child in Need’ and requires accommodation.

A young person is homeless if they have no accommodation that is available for occupation, that they have a legal interest in occupying, that they can secure entry to or that is reasonable for their occupation. A young person is also homeless if they would ordinarily live in a mobile home but have nowhere to park this home.

Being 16 or 17 years of age is a mandatory priority need reason set out in the 1996 Housing Act (as amended).

Section 6, Suitability of Temporary Accommodation of the protocol will set out in more detail guidelines as to what forms of accommodation could be deemed to be suitable for young people.

Ordinarily, the Leeds Housing Options Service would carry out further inquiries to establish whether a young person is eligible for housing assistance, unintentionally homeless, in priority need and has a local connection to the Leeds district. However, in respect of 16 and 17 year olds the Leeds Housing Options Service will make a referral to Children’s Services, through the Contact Centre, so that an assessment can be made under the 1989 Children Act to determine whether the young person is a ‘Child in Need’ and whether an accommodation duty is owed by Children’s Services. Interim accommodation will continue to be secured through the Leeds Housing Options Service whilst the assessment is carried out by Children’s Services.

The interim duty to secure suitable accommodation will end if Children’s Services deem that the young person is a ‘Child in Need’ and that a duty is owed to provide that young person with accommodation under the terms of the 1989 Children Act.

If Children’s Services deem that the young person is not a ‘Child in Need’ then the interim accommodation secured through the Leeds Housing Options Service will continue and the assessment process, as described in see Section 6, Suitability of Temporary Accommodation.

A young person is deemed to be threatened with homelessness if they are assessed likely to lose their accommodation within a 28 day period. Whilst no interim accommodation duty will be owed, under the 1996 Housing Act (as amended), the Leeds Housing Options Service will need to make a referral, via the Contact Centre, for Children’s Service to carry out the ‘Child in Need’ assessment under the 1989 Children Act. This referral needs to be made as swiftly as possible after the young person has presented for assistance through the Leeds Housing Options Service.


5. Assessment: Approach to Children’s Services

If a young person approaches Children’s Services requesting assistance because they are homeless or threatened with homelessness then Children’s Services will be obliged to carry out an assessment as to whether a young person is a ‘Child in Need’, and whether temporary accommodation should be provided, under the 1989 Children Act. A referral for mediation, if appropriate, should be made at the same time as the Child and Family Assessment is activated.

If Children’s Services consider that the young person is homeless then it must secure suitable temporary accommodation for them and appropriate support. This means that the young person becomes a Child Looked After within the meaning of Section 20 (1) of the 1989 Children Act. Young people who are considered to be Looked After will not be eligible for welfare benefits, including housing benefit, and Children’s Service will have a duty to financially support the young person - including meeting the costs of their accommodation.

Children’s Services should liaise with staff from the Leeds Housing Options Service who will assist them to secure suitable temporary accommodation.

The precedence given to the 1989 Children Act over the 1996 Housing Act (as amended) means that Children’s Services are the lead agency in responding to the needs of homeless 16 and 17 year olds. The Leeds Housing Options Service and Children’s Services will need to work in close partnership to ensure that the needs of the young person are fully met.


6. Suitability of Temporary Accommodation

The protocol will not set out a prescribed absolute definition of what constitutes suitable temporary accommodation for young people. The suitability of temporary accommodation for each young person will be made following consideration of their individual needs and circumstances.

Consideration will be given to the wishes, feelings, education, employment, training and health needs of the young person. Both the Leeds Housing Options Service and Children’s Services will need to consider how a young person’s disability affects the suitability of temporary accommodation offered to them. Location of accommodation, including proximity of support, will be a relevant factor. The Leeds Housing Options Service and Children’s Services will be mindful that the accommodation offered does not expose a young person to harm or social exclusion.

The Leeds Housing Options Service and Children’s Services will need to be satisfied that the accommodation offered is safe, secure and affordable. The accommodation must be in a reasonable standard of repair and the housing provider must have a proven record of delivering quality housing management services. Supported housing providers commissioned through the Supporting People programme, the Leeds ALMO's, housing associations and locally accredited private landlords can demonstrate quality housing management services and therefore are potentially sources of suitable temporary accommodation.

The protocol does not set out to prescribe the types of accommodation that are suitable for young people. Nevertheless, officers from both the Leeds Housing Options Service and Children’s Services should be mindful of the following points:

  • Bed and Breakfast accommodation, as defined in Homelessness (Suitability of Accommodation) (England) SI 3326 2003, is not deemed to be a suitable temporary accommodation option for 16 and 17 year old homeless people and should only be used in exceptional circumstances where no other more appropriate housing option is available. Both the Leeds Housing Options Service and Children’s Services will work to minimise the use of such placements and ensure that support is provided to the young person during this period;
  • Residence is direct access hostel accommodation is also not considered to be suitable for 16 and 17 year olds and will only be used in exceptional circumstances where no other more appropriate housing option is available. Both the Leeds Housing Options Service and Children’s Services will work to minimise the use of such placements and ensure that support is provided to the young person during this period;
  • The Leeds Housing Options Service and Children’s Service will ensure that young people are not placed in accommodation that suffers from Category 1 hazards as defined in the Housing Act 2004.


7. Timescales

Children’s Services will adhere to the provisions in ‘The Framework for Assessment of Children in Need and their Families’ that set out the timescales for making an assessment of whether a child is in need and the services that need to be provided to them.

Where the Leeds Housing Options Service has secured interim accommodation under the 1996 Housing Act (as amended), pending an assessment by Children’s Services, then the Leeds Housing Options Service will ensure that a referral is made, through the Contact Centre, on the same day that the placement is made.

Where the Leeds Housing Options Service has deemed that a young person is threatened with homelessness they will make a referral to Children’s Services, through the Contact Centre, on the same day that the assessment of the threat of homelessness has been made.

Where Children’s Services deem that a young person is a Child in Need, and the young person has been placed in interim accommodation by the Leeds Housing Options Service, then Children’s Services will notify the Leeds Housing Options Service of the decision and the accommodation arrangements for the young person on the same day that the decision has been made.

A Child in Need assessment is not considered to have been completed until all stakeholders, including the young person, relevant adults, Leeds Housing Options Service and other involved services have been notified of the decision.


8. 16 and 17 Homeless People from another Local Authority Area presenting in Leeds

Connection to a specific local authority district is not a relevant factor in determining whether interim accommodation should be secured for a young person, under the terms of the 1996 Housing Act (as amended), by the Leeds Housing Options Service. Interim accommodation should be secured if the young person is eligible for assistance, believed to be homeless and in priority need. Where applicable, a referral should be made for mediation concurrent to the interim accommodation being secured.

Children’s Services will also be obliged to commence a Child in Need assessment, and provide accommodation as required, irrespective of whether a young person has previously lived in another local authority district.

Children’s Services will consider, as part of their assessment, whether it is appropriate for the local authority district where the young person previously lived to take over the assessment of the young person and any accompanying duties that result from the assessment.

Children’s Services should liaise with the other local authority district and ensure that the welfare of the young person is not compromised in any way by these discussions.


9. Young Person’s Wishes and Feelings

Both the Leeds Housing Options Service and Children’s Services will need to have reasonable regard for the wishes and feelings of the young person who is homeless or threatened with homelessness.

This will include consideration of their emotional and behavioural development and their capacity to make use of wider resources to manage independent living.

If a young person states that they do not wish to be accommodated then this will be a significant, but not absolutely decisive, consideration in the overall judgement of their assessed needs and what services need to be offered to meet these needs.

It is important that young people are consulted and are provided with information, in a format that they can understand, about what services can be provided to them as a Child Looked After.

Consideration should be given to whether the young person has the capacity to understand the implications of accepting or refusing the housing and support options that are being made available to them. A young person should be encouraged to secure independent advice and support that can help them to determine what housing and support options they want.

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