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National Homeless Advice Service

Short-term accommodation options

Where a young person cannot remain at home or within the family network or with their friends, suitable short stay or temporary accommodation will probably be needed.

This accommodation must be made available to them until their circumstances are fully understood, and planned assistance offered.

Types of short-stay accommodation

There are different models of suitable short stay accommodation including:

  • Nightstop supported lodgings, where a young person is placed with a trained and CRB checked ‘host’ in their own home for a few nights
  • ‘crash pad’ beds in larger hostels/foyers that are ring-fenced for young people in crisis. These tend to be for a few days only, and young residents have to meet stricter rules than mainstream residents
  • assessment centres, where young people can stay for 8 to 12 weeks
  • self-contained temporary accommodation units managed by local authorities
  • ‘time out’ schemes, where the young person is given respite accommodation and mediation services are offered to them and their family.

See our peer learning examples on emergency short-stay accommodation.

This point in the pathway often presents major challenges due to the involvement of several agencies and the statutory provisions that apply.

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Placements made under different statutory provisions

There are different statutory provisions that apply to placements of young people in emergency short term accommodation while an assessment is being carried out.

Which provisions apply will depend on whether the placement was made under section 188 of the Housing Act 1996, by a housing authority or under section 20 of the Children Act 1989 by a children’s services authority.

As well as having an impact on the young person’s eventual outcome, the provisions that apply also determine the processes used to inform benefits teams and landlords, so that changes to funding arrangements are made if and when the status of the placement changes when the assessment has been completed. It also has significant implications for authority budgets.

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Coordinating provision and access to emergency accommodation

Authorities often face considerable challenges when seeking to place young people in emergency accommodation.

These frequently include unpredictable levels of demand across a wide geographic area and situations where several authorities (particularly Children’s Services and housing departments) need to make placements in similar accommodation. There is often a need for vacancies at short notice, and although bed and breakfast accommodation may be available, it is not suitable for 16 and 17 year olds.

However, a number of authorities have been able to overcome these challenges by:

  • establishing a hub or central gateway for all youth services to supported accommodation for young people, through which all placements are made
  • working in partnership with a single agency or through a framework agreement to coordinate placements in short and longer-term young people’s accommodation
  • commissioning flexible accommodation options such as a Nightstop or crashpad
  • ensuring that supported accommodation for this purpose is commissioned in a way that allows placements by both Children’s Services and Housing Departments and ensures that the accommodation is used only for this purpose - in some areas this may mean commissioning independently of Supporting People programmes.

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Status of young people under the Children Act 1989

If a young person is placed in short-stay accommodation by a children’s services authority while the initial assessment is carried out, the young person is automatically deemed to have accepted assistance under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989.

It is important to note that there is no legal provision to place a young person in need of accommodation under Section 17 powers. This is a duty, and must be provided under Section 20.

To allow placements to be made at short notice where necessary, Children’s Services authorities should ensure that they resolve issues of budgets and internal authorisation procedures.

‘Looked after’ children are not eligible to claim housing benefit, Jobseekers Allowance or equivalent benefits. Any period during which they are accommodated by Children’s Services also contributes to the 13 week qualifying period after which they would become an eligible looked-after child, under the provisions of the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000 and would then subsequently have care leaver status.

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