Making the difference for young people moving on from care
ACCOMMODATION POLICY BRIEFING
A home not a safety net: Briefing on legislative and policy framework on accommodation and care leavers
The purpose of this briefing is to provide an overview of the legal framework and Government policy relating to care leavers and accommodation and the issues arising from the current position. Where possible we have included policy recommendations that would improve the accommodation prospects of young people leaving care. A further briefing examines the possible pathways for young people on leaving foster and residential care.
Every year around 8,000 young people leave care in England. Those leaving care are a diverse group of young people with different needs for support and differing levels of practical and emotional capability to live independently.
The importance of securing appropriate and suitable accommodation is critical for young people to develop emotionally, socially and economically. There is a legislative and policy framework that is designed to ensure that those leaving local authority care are appropriately accommodated. For young people in care the local authority is their corporate parent; thus the legislative and policy framework should place care leavers in a similar position as young people who live with their birth families. The limitation of legislation and the non-statutory nature of policy, however, mean that for too many young people leaving care the process of securing accommodation is far from ideal. Young people also report that the accommodation is not of an appropriate standard and does not meet their needs and aspirations. In addition, local authority reporting on the number of care leavers in suitable accommodation at age 19 illustrates great variance in local authorities’ success in this area. There are also concerns regarding care leavers ability to sustain their accommodation in the longer term as, unlike the majority of those not in care, they are unable to return to the family home if they cannot retain their accommodation. Nevertheless, the existence of law and policy provides in the least a basic safety net to those leaving care, and it is helpful if those working with care leavers understand its general principles.
A home not a safety net