Issues such as the funding of accommodation or support services - or which authority controls them - should not have an impact on a young person’s positive pathway to independence.
However, in many local authorities such issues do matter - if the best possible outcomes for young people are to be achieved, the obstacles to achieving effective joint working cannot be ignored.
Both Children’s Services and housing teams should be able to offer similarly effective pathways of assistance.
These should involve either the young person accepting assistance under section 20 of the Children’s Act 1989, or where section 20 assistance is not applicable or rejected by the young person receiving a duty under the homelessness provisions of the Housing Act 1996.
Potential assistance is not restricted to regulated placements in a children’s home or foster care. 16 and 17 year olds who are looked after can be placed in ‘other arrangements’. Examples of such arrangements include supported lodgings, foyers and other forms of supported accommodation.
Many authorities have established a youth services hub or single point of access to help coordinate access. This approach helps to ensure that the full range of appropriate accommodation and support can be considered when discussing assistance under section 20.
Where the hub or single point of access model cannot be used, a joint young person’s accommodation panel can work effectively in designing appropriate packages tailored to the young person’s needs.
A housing authority has a duty to a young person who is a ‘child in need’ under section 17 of the Children’s Act 1989 but has rejected assistance with accommodation under section 20, if they are homeless and otherwise eligible for assistance.
This duty comes under the Housing Act 1996. The authority may well be able to discharge it by making an offer of accommodation in supported housing or other provision where the young person holds a tenancy.
Even where the duty applies, the young person remains a ‘child in need’ under the meaning of Section 17 and Children’s Services’ duties under the Children Act 1989 continue.
Agencies providing support to such young people in a housing setting should establish relationships with the relevant children’s services team so that the ongoing duty can be reviewed regularly.