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National Homeless Advice Service

Emergency housing for care leavers

A care leaver aged 16 or 17 who has spent at least 13 weeks in care from the age of 14, including at least one day whilst aged 16 or 17, is a ‘relevant child’ and under the Children Act 1989 children’s services must assist them with accommodation if their welfare requires it. Their accommodation needs should have been addressed in their pathway plan before they left care.

Although children’s services are responsible for their accommodation, in order to secure accommodation in an emergency a homeless care leaver aged under 18 can apply to housing services. Housing services should contact children’s services. See Helping homeless 16 and 17 year old clients for more information.

A 16 or 17 year old care leaver who does not meet the ‘relevant child’ criteria will be owed a duty by children’s services as a child in need, but may also apply as homeless if they need housing in an emergency.

A care leaver aged 18, 19 or 20 (who has spent at least one day in care whilst aged 16 or 17), and a care leaver aged 21 or over who is ‘vulnerable’, is in priority need for housing under homelessness legislation. Housing services will have a duty to to provide emergency accommodation if they have reason to believe the young person is also homeless and eligible for assistance. See Helping young homeless clients in an emergency for more information on helping young care leavers to apply as homeless.

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