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National Homeless Advice Service

Social services’ duties to 16 and 17 year olds

Any duty owed by a local authority to homeless 16 and 17 year olds under the Children Act 1989 takes precedence over the duties under the homelessness legislation.

The ongoing duty to accommodate and support 16 and 17 year olds normally falls to children’s social services rather than the housing authority. When homeless 16 and 17 year olds are assessed as in need, they become looked after children entitled to support and accommodation under section 20 of the Children Act 1989. Depending on the length of time they spent in care, they may also be entitled to a range of services for care leavers.

Children’s social services are responsible for providing accommodation and support to 16 and 17 year old care leavers, known as ‘relevant children’.

Certain 16 or 17 year olds, for example young parents or young people already living independently, may prefer not to be helped by social services under section 20 of the Children Act 1989 and instead wish to make a homeless application to the housing authority. In such cases only, the local housing authority, rather than children’s social services, is responsible for meeting their housing needs under the homelessness legislation and for providing additional support under section 17 of the Children Act 1989 (in collaboration with other agencies and/or children social services). Such young people are not classed as ‘looked after’ and are not entitled to services for care leavers.

See Shelter Legal: Homeless 16- and 17-year olds for more information.

Standard letter for making a referral to children’s social services