Having chosen to leave home, many young people will choose to return periodically depending on their financial and personal circumstances. For those who left due to relationship breakdown or a family crisis, returning can be more problematic. Those who do return can be helped to overcome recurring problems, through mediation and other support.
Mediation can assist young people to reconnect with their families, mediation may be arranged by homelessness services or Children’s services using their own mediation service or an independent organisation.
Mediation alone cannot deliver everything that young people and their families need to improve relationships and sustain a return to the family home. Indeed, mediation offered in isolation may not be as effective as when it forms part of a wider support package designed around the needs of the young person and their family.
Wider support will usually involve a multi-agency approach, with statutory and voluntary agencies liaising to provide a personalised package of ongoing support.
Young people may have been asked to leave the family home because of financial problems. Once a young person turns 16, if they are not in approved education or training, a parent no longer receives child benefit for them, and most young people aged 16 and 17 who are not in education, employment or training will not receive any benefits (although there are exceptions - see the benefits section for further information). Understandably, financial hardship may cause tensions in a household.
To facilitate a young person’s return to the family home, local authorities may be able to provide short-term help to families in this situation, through discretionary payments or from a local homelessness prevention budget.
A family living in social housing may have been classed as over-occupying their home after a young person left, and have had their housing-related benefit reduced through the ‘bedroom tax’ rules. When a young person returns to live in the home, the reduction may be removed (except in cases of a non-dependant deduction).
Mediation is not an alternative to accepting a young person as homeless, and should not be used as a way of delaying or preventing a young person accessing homelessness support.
Due to budgetary and resource constraints in many local authorities, support services for young people may only be available to those who match eligibility criteria.
Most young care leavers have some form of contact with their birth families, and some will choose to return there when they leave care.
Under the Children (Leaving Care) Act, returning to live with family can affect eligibility for services. If a young person aged 16 or 17 returns home successfully to a parent (or someone with parental responsibility) for a continuous period of six months, they can no longer be treated as a ‘relevant child’ unless the placement breaks down . They would instead be a ‘qualifying’ child. The local authority would have the power to advise and assist the young person, but there would no longer be any statutory duty to maintain the Pathway Plan.
For more information, see the section accommodation options for care leavers.