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1.4.9 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 olds who are homeless or threatened with homelessness. 

AMENDMENT

This chapter was refreshed in August 2022.


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Structure
  3. Commitment to the Prevention of Homelessness
  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 olds 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 statutory guidance produced by the Secretary of State for Education and the then Secretary of State for the Ministry of Communities and Local Government relating to local authorities’ duties to 16/17 year olds who are homeless or threatened with homelessness.

See: Provision of Accommodation for 16 and 17 Year Olds who may be Homeless and/or Require Accommodation.

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 and the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017) relating to people who are homeless/threatened with homelessness who approach the authority requesting housing assistance. 

The safety and welfare of children aged 16 and 17 is paramount. Leeds City Council promotes a child-centred and coordinated approach to safeguarding and recognises that older teenagers may be exposed to or experience risks through circumstances outside the parental or family home which require assessments and responses based on an understanding of contextual safeguarding. This underpins all the work with 16 and 17 year olds, including those who may be at risk of homelessness.

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 and the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017) 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 assessment, prevention activity and provision of 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 Children’s Services directorate. 


3. Commitment to Prevention of Homelessness

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. 

The practical activity listed below should not replace a statutory assessment if homelessness is actual or imminent (defined as within 56 days) but should run in parallel with a Child and Family Assessment and a homelessness assessment:

  • Leeds City Council commissions a local consortium of three housing agencies, who together deliver a service, ‘Our Way Leeds’. Within this is a Prevention Service, which works with young people and their families. The aim of their mediation work 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;
  • Children’s Services can offer practical assistance to families through a range of services and support in local community based services provided through our Early Help offer;
  • 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. A 16 or 17 year old cannot hold a tenancy in law until they are 18, so any prevention measures may be related to assisting the person who holds the tenancy with some housing costs, or the family as a whole, through helping with alleviating any pressures on the household which are related to the young person, 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. 

If it is decided that a young person can return to their parental/guardian’s home then a decision will need to be made regarding any on-going support work to ensure there is not a repeat of a threat of homelessness.


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 within 56 days, then the service will activate a homeless application under Part VII of the 1996 Housing Act (as amended). At this point, even if the young person is not yet homeless, but is imminently homeless, Leeds Housing Options must make a referral to Children’s Services and this will trigger a Child and Family Assessment to be undertaken by Children’s Social Care to determine if the child is a child in need of accommodation.

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

Eligibility for housing assistance: 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’.

If a young person is not eligible, Leeds Housing Options must immediately notify Children’s Services as this will inform the child in need assessment.

Threatened with homelessness: A young person is deemed to be ‘threatened with homelessness’ and are owed the ‘prevention’ duty under S195 of the 1996 Housing Act if they are likely to lose their accommodation within 56 days.

A person is also threatened with homelessness if they have been given a valid section 21 notice in respect of their only accommodation, and the notice is due to expire within 56 days. Note that a 16/17 year old cannot hold a tenancy in law until they are 18, so this will not apply to them directly, but it may apply to a parent or adult with whom the young person is residing.

The prevention duty will last for at least 56 days or until the duty is ended in another way, including through securing of suitable accommodation with a reasonable prospect of being available for six months.

Homelessness: 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. 

A person who is homeless is owed the ‘relief’ duty under 189B of the 1996 Housing Act, which will continue for 56 days unless the duty is ended in another way, including through securing of suitable accommodation with a reasonable prospect of being available for 6 months.

Priority need: An eligible young person aged 16 or 17 years of age and who is homeless will have a priority need for accommodation (as set out in 1996 Housing Act as amended) unless they are already a child who is looked after or a ‘relevant’ child under the provisions of the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000. This means they are entitled to temporary accommodation until such time as their homelessness is relieved. Note that having a ‘priority need’ for accommodation is not the same as having a priority on a local authority housing register.

16 and 17 year olds who are accepted as homeless and owed the relief duty

If a young person aged 16/17 is eligible, is homeless and has (or may have) a priority need for housing assistance, they will be owed an interim temporary accommodation duty ( S188 of the 1996 Housing Act) until the outcome of the Child and Family Assessment is known.

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. 

As noted above, in respect of 16 and 17 year olds Leeds Housing Options Service must make a referral to Children’s Services, to the Duty and Advice service, so that a Child and Family Assessment can be undertaken to determine whether the young person is a ‘child in need’ ( S17 of the 1989 Children Act) and whether an accommodation duty is owed by Children’s Services (S20 of the 1989 Children Act). Interim accommodation will continue to be secured through the Leeds Housing Options Service whilst the assessment is carried out by Children’s Services. 

The S188 1996 Housing Act interim temporary accommodation duty owed by Leeds Housing Options 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 S20 of the 1989 Children Act. The relief duty will also end if Leeds Housing Options are satisfied there is a reasonable prospect the young person will have suitable accommodation for six months through being a child looked after.

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 must continue until 56 days has passed from the day the homelessness decision was made, unless homelessness can be relieved during that time.

After 56 days from accepting the ‘relief’ duty, if homelessness has not yet been relieved, Leeds Housing Options will make a decision regarding if the young person is owed the ‘main’ housing. The S193 1996 Housing Act ‘main duty’ is owed if Leeds Housing Options is satisfied that the young person is homeless, eligible for assistance and has a priority need, and are not satisfied that they became homeless intentionally.

See Section 6, Suitability of Temporary Accommodation.


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 accommodation should be provided, under S20 of the 1989 Children Act. A referral for prevention support, including mediation, if appropriate, should be made at the same time as the Child and Parent Assessment Placement Procedure is activated. 

A referral, with the consent of the young person, must be made by Children’s Services to Leeds Housing Options under the ‘Duty to Refer’ to inform them that young person is or may be homeless. The referral does not diminish Children’s Services responsibilities towards the young person; rather it should be used to help strengthen communication between Children’s Service and Leeds Housing Options housing services, it will not be an alternative to carrying out a child in need assessment.

If Children’s Services consider that the young person is homeless then it must secure suitable 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. 

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 emergency or short term accommodation for young people, whether this is provided by Leeds Housing Options as ‘temporary’ interim accommodation or as an emergency placement by Children’s Services under S20. The suitability of accommodation, however short-term, 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 any emergency/short term accommodation offered to them. Location of accommodation, including proximity of support and to school or college, 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 and that there is a level of support available to meet the young person’s assessed needs. 16 and 17 year olds who are accommodated under S20 will require a registered placement in foster care or residential care or in supported accommodation for young people. 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 Leeds City Council must demonstrate quality housing management services and therefore are potentially sources of suitable 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 2003 Homelessness (Suitability of Accommodation) (England) Order, is not deemed to be a suitable temporary accommodation option for 16 and 17 year old homeless people. Use of bed and breakfast will only ever be considered in highly exceptional circumstances where no other more appropriate housing option is available. Any such placement can only be made for a single night at a time and must be authorised each night in advance by the respective Head of Service for Children’s Services (who will require approval from the Director/ Deputy Director) or Leeds Housing Options;
  • 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

A Child and Family Assessment may take up to 45 days, however, in the case of a 16 or 17 year old who is threatened with homelessness or is homeless, 45 days is a long period of time, which may involve significant risk and hardship, impacting on their safety, welfare and physical and emotional well-being.

Leeds Children’s Services will endeavour to complete assessments within this time period. If an assessment exceeds 45 working days, the social worker should record the reasons for exceeding the time period.

Children’s Services should note that Leeds Housing Options cannot make a ‘main duty’ decision on homelessness until the outcome of the Child and Family Assessment is known.

Leeds Housing Options

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, to the Duty and Advice service, 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, to the Duty and Advice service, on the same day that the assessment of the threat of homelessness has been made. 

Decisions following assessments

A Child and Family 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. 

Where Children’s Services deem that a young person is a Child in Need, and they require accommodation, 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. 

If the young person has agreed to becoming a child who is looked after then Leeds Housing Options will end any homelessness duty owed to the young person once arrangements for the Children’s Services placement have been made.

If the young person does not wish to become looked after and they are judged to have capacity to make this decision, then they are still a ‘child in need’ and will require a Child in Need Plan. Leeds Housing Options will then continue with or pick up the accommodation duty from Children’s Services until such point as the homelessness duty is ended.


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 has or may have a 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 and Family 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 who is homeless and assessed as a child in need of accommodation 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 and what services may be provided to them if they choose not be a child looked after, including assistance under the Housing Act 1996.

Consideration should be given as 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.

Advocacy should be offered to young person to help them to determine what housing and support options they want. 

Where a young person does not wish to be looked after and they are deemed to have the capacity to make the decision, a Child in Need Plan is still required.

Closure of cases of 16 /17 year olds who are or may be homeless

There should be no blanket decision making about the closure of a case of a homeless 16/17 year old where they have been assessed as a Child in Need.

Homelessness includes ‘sofa surfing’ in short term arrangements with friends or family and should not be viewed as a resolution of homelessness or threat of homelessness in the case of a 16 /17 year old.

A Children’s Services case of the homeless 16 or 17 year old should not be closed until there is formal agreement that their needs are being met through other support and services available. The earliest point where a case may be closed is where they are in more settled accommodation (for example, they are no longer in emergency accommodation but are in a longer stay supported housing scheme with a clear housing pathway and where support is provided to meet their needs) or they reach the age of 18.

Consideration should be given to other support that they may need and referrals made to other relevant services.

End