Making the difference for young people moving on from care
There is a legal framework, specific to care leavers, that ensures that they receive appropriate services to enable their transition to adulthood, including entitlements to accommodation. There is other non-specific legislation, such as general homelessness legislation, that those leaving care can rely on in accessing accommodation. Legislation of this nature falls into two categories:
Primary legislation - Acts of Parliament
Secondary legislation - Regulations or statutory guidance.
Local authorities are obliged to adhere to Acts of Parliament and must only deviate from statutory guidance if they can demonstrate a good reason for doing so. Central Government also produce non statutory guidance or good practice which suggests how best to provide services, but that local authorities are not obliged to adhere to.
Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000
The Children (Leaving Care) Act amended the Children Act 1989 and imposed a duty on local authorities to provide support and accommodation for relevant children1 by providing them with or maintaining them in suitable accommodation. This only applies to those young people who are 16 and 17 years old. When a young person is over the age of 18, or does not, or has not, fulfilled the definition of relevant child, the local authority has only a duty to assist them (former relevant and qualifying young people) with accommodation and support to the extent that their welfare requires it. Those who are relevant or former relevant in full-time higher or residential accommodation are also entitled to (or payment for) vacation accommodation.
Eligible, relevant and former relevant young people should have a Pathway plan reviewed and maintained: the plan should identify how the local authority will support the young person’s transition to adulthood. The pathway plan must cover arrangements for accommodation and appropriate support for the young person and, through its implementation, should ensure that the young person avoids homelessness. If a young person does become homeless the legislation on homelessness provides an essential safety net.
Young people on a care order (a court order was obtained by the local authority to take them into care) are not ‘discharged from care’ when they
1 For definitions of young people in care see www.leavingcare.org/professionals/law rights/children leaving care act 2000
A home not a safety net