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National Homeless Advice Service

Accommodation options for care leavers

Statutory guidance does not stipulate any particular type of accommodation for care leavers.

Although all eligible, relevant and former relevant children must be provided with a pathway plan by their local authority, which will include financial support and accommodation, different local authorities will provide different solutions for care leavers depending on local resources and policies.

Accommodation options should be discussed with the care leaver well before the date they are due to leave care, and every attempt should be made to find accommodation in advance of that date.

See Leaving foster or local authority care (Gov.uk)

Care leavers whose accommodation arrangements break down may need to access suitable emergency housing.


The legal framework

The legal framework for care leavers aims to make sure that they receive the right support and services in their transition to adulthood, including access to accommodation. General homelessness legislation also provides a safety net for care leavers experiencing homelessness.The legislation most relevant to care leavers’ accommodation needs is the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000, which amended the Children Act 1989, and the Care Leavers (England) Regulations 2010.

Statutory guidance details how children’s services should support care leavers, including in helping them to access accommodation. It states, for example, that it would be inappropriate for 16 and 17-year-old care leavers to live completely independently, and also that bed and breakfast accommodation should only be used very occasionally and only in the short-term.

The statutory guidance can be found on Gov.uk - Children Act 1989: planning transition to adulthood for care leavers

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Accommodation for 16 and 17 year old care leavers: first steps

When young people leave their care placement, the local authority must ensure that the accommodation they move to is suitable and appropriate to the pathway plan.

For many young people, moving straight from care to independent living is too big a step. A young care leaver may be able to make a more successful transition if there is a choice of returning home for a short time, remaining with a former carer, or moving to supported lodgings or to a semi-independent option with some support, depending on the young person’s needs.

Returning to the family home

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’. 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 on how young people and their families can be supported to live together successfully, see the section returning to the family home.

Foster care - ‘Staying Put’

Young people who have been in the same foster placement since the age of 15 may choose to continue to live with their with foster family. Foster care payments would cease, however an alternative financial arrangement would be made, with former foster parents becoming supported lodgings providers (In some local authorities, Staying Put carers receive much lower payments than they did as foster carers). The ‘provider’ would then play in role in the young person’s pathway plan, and help prepare a young person for their transition into more independent accommodation.

Supported lodgings with friends or family

Adult friends, the family of a partner, or wider family may be able offer to provide lodgings for young care leavers. Local authorities may be able to provide financial assistance to support this.

A friends and family (or found) placement can provide a safe and positive placement for the young person, whether the arrangement is a temporary one, acting as a bridge to the next stage of housing provision, or as a longer term solution.

When funding ends for these placements, young people can also choose to stay on with their former supported lodgings carer as a lodger. There may however be restrictions on claiming housing benefit for young people renting from family members.

Supported accommodation schemes including foyers

There are a range of supported accommodation options which can offer different services and varying levels of support.

  • high support - independent units or bedrooms with shared kitchen and living areas. Residents must commit to continuing support from a key worker, possible daily. Staff will also will be on site throughout the day and most of the night.
  • medium support - this could involve sharing a flat with others, with a key worker visit once a week, and other staff available on site during the day, but not necessarily overnight.
  • lower support - here, a young person would live alone in their own flat and be visited regularly by a key worker.

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Moving on and accommodation from the age of 18

Some of the options listed above will be available to young people long-term, and some young people will choose to stay in their supported lodgings scheme rather than move to different accommodation. However, many will move-on to the next stage of housing options.

Accommodation options

Local authorities may be able to accommodate care leavers in dedicated properties such as taster flats, supported lodgings (in family homes) or supported accommodation such as foyers, self-contained flats and shared houses hostel type accommodation, or fully independent accommodation options.

Local authorities may also be able to offer flexible tenancies and support services in social housing, but with the continuing shortage in local authority accommodation, it is more likely a young person will rent from the private rented sector once they turn 18.

Private rented sector

Once they turn 18, young people are legally able to take on their own tenancies.

Different options will be available for renting in the private sector, including:

  • accommodation with floating support
  • shared housing or lodgings
  • self contained accommodation in the private rented sector (young care leavers are exempt from the shared accommodation rate until the age of 22).

Some young care leavers will choose to find their own tenancies in the private sector. Appropriate support services can still be put in place to help ensure the tenancy is sustained and help given to address any problems.

Social housing

Depending on local authorities policies and resources, young care leavers may be able to take up a council or housing association tenancy. There may also be the opportunity to be given a flexible tenancy and be provided with support services.

See Moving on to longer-term accommodation for more information on private renting and on social housing.

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Other accommodation options

Further education

Some young care leavers will move from care to accommodation linked to full-time study at university or college.

See the section Education, training and employment.

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Problems with accessing accommodation options

Younger care leavers aged 18 to 21 are exempt from the shared room rate that restricts people under the age of 25 to a housing benefit local housing allowance payment equivalent to a room in a shared house. However, at the age of 22 care leavers lose this exemption and properties that they have been settled in, perhaps for several years since leaving care, can become unaffordable.

See Benefits and financial support for young people for more information.

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Advising and supporting care leavers on their accommodation options

Advisers to young care leavers can assist their clients to access and maintain appropriate accommodation by:

  • negotiating with the local authority on their behalf for discretionary housing allowance to be used to keep them in their current accommodation
  • supporting care leavers who will be affected by the shared accommodation rate to find suitable alternative accommodation.

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