Changes in remand arrangements for 16 and 17 year olds now require that any young person of that age who is remanded to custody - as well as to the local authority - will become a ‘looked after’ child.
This is set out in the Sentencing and Legal Aid Act 2012. See the page on legislation and good practice for details of the statutory requirement.
If a young person on remand is looked after for 13 weeks or more after their 14th birthday and are still looked after on or after their 16th birthday, they will become eligible under the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000.
It is likely that where a young person aged 16 or 17 is not able to return to the family home they will either become or remain looked after, or be entitled to leaving care provisions.
Joint protocols and other working arrangements should ensure that 16 and 17 year olds leaving young offenders institutions or other residential settings should not need to present as homeless if they do not have a safe family home to return to.
Instead there should be a plan, based on assessment of their needs, for them to access the accommodation and support they need. This will require joint working between the Youth Offending Service, Children’s Services and housing teams and supported accommodation providers. It should also involve the young person and - where possible or appropriate - their parents or other extended family.
Children’s Services authorities have a range of statutory duties towards looked after children and young people.They must accommodate and maintain all looked after children.
Every looked after child must have a care plan that sets out how they intend to respond to the full range of the child’s needs. The care plan becomes the Pathway Plan after they reach the age of 16.
Children’s Services authorities also have to work with young people preparing to leave care, as required under the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000 and regulations. They must keep in touch with the young person, maintain the pathway plan and keep it under regular review. They must also appoint a personal adviser.
As young people become more mature, the support they receive will involve preparing them for greater independence. As they prepare to move on from their final care placement, the pathway planning process should be used to ensure that they move on to suitable accommodation in a planned way, with the support they need. Young people leaving care should not need to present as homeless in order to get the services and support that they need..
The Children’s Services authority will need to call on assistance from its partner agencies to help it meet its responsibilities effectively. It is vital that Children’s Services and Housing Services - in both unitary and two-tier authorities - establish joint working arrangements for promoting and planning care leavers’ transition to adulthood. Young people can then be provided with the support they need to manage the challenges of independent living.
There will be a continuing need for support to ensure that care leavers are able to maintain their accommodation. Even with this support, a small minority of young people will experience problems that lead to a risk of homelessness. Housing and Children’s Services should have a joint protocol in place to ensure a quick, safe and supportive response.