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4.21 Homeless 16 and 17 Year Olds

AMENDMENT

In November 2015, additional local information was added for Salford.


Contents

  1. Purpose
  2. Background
  3. Principles Underpinning the Protocol
  4. Proposed Accommodation Pathway and Process for 16 -17 Year Olds
  5. Exceptional Circumstances
  6. Additional Local Information


1. Purpose

The purpose of the protocol is to ensure that partners continue to work together to provide a consistent and coordinated response to 16 and 17 year old young people who present as homeless and in need of accommodation and accommodation support services. The protocol includes an integrated pathway for referral to, assessment for and planning for access to accommodation and accommodation support services to streamline and make the most effective use of existing resources.

This protocol reflects the government guidance 'Provision of Accommodation for 16 and 17 year old young people who may be homeless and/or require accommodation' issued in 2010 following the House of Lords 2009 judgment in the case of G v LB Southwark. The guidance clarifies that the local authority's duty under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989 takes precedence over its duties under the relevant Housing Act legislation in providing for children (young people) in need who require accommodation.

This protocol sets out the roles and responsibilities of Children's Social Care and the relevant Housing Authority and partner agencies.

The primary objective of the protocol is to promote and safeguard the well-being of the young person and to prevent homelessness; returning young people to their family wherever possible. If a return home is not possible, the objective is to find the most suitable accommodation for the young person and to support them to remain in and move on from their accommodation when appropriate.


2. Background

The majority of homeless young people are referred to the Youth Offending Service (YOS) or Children's Social Care. Many of these young people do not go on to be homeless as they are dealt with by a supported return home to family or friends, or by supported access to sustainable accommodation that meets agreed criteria.

The protocol aims to build upon this good practice and will:

  • Facilitate greater coordination between services;
  • Improve how young people are referred to and access accommodation and support services;
  • Achieve greater consistency with support plans and access to services;
  • Clarify where young people are accommodated while awaiting Children's Social Care assessment;
  • Standardise processes and procedures that are then easier to follow;
  • Enable young people to make informed decisions by giving them information about their entitlements and offering them an independent advocate;
  • Use available resources to best effect;
  • Identify gaps in appropriate accommodation;
  • Consider how best to commission housing provision and support services.


3. Principles Underpinning the Protocol

  • The safety and welfare of the young person is paramount;
  • Unless there is clear evidence to the contrary, the starting point will be that all children and young people are best off with their immediate families. Every effort should be made therefore to mediate between young people and their families to negotiate a return home;
  • Where young people are unable or unwilling to return to their immediate families, young people should be supported to explore wider family members and community options where their needs can be met;
  • Young people will be kept informed of progress and decisions made and are engaged in their assessment and plans;
  • Agencies will work together to assess and meet the needs of these young people and share information effectively;
  • A homeless or potentially homeless young person will have a Lead Professional, who will be supported as appropriate by a multi agency team of professionals;
  • Where a young person is assessed as homeless and is unable to return home, Children's Social Care will be the lead agency and the primary legislation will be the Children Act 1989;
  • Whilst it is recognised that Bed and Breakfast accommodation is not suitable for 16 - 17 year olds, in some emergency circumstances young people will be accommodated in Bed and Breakfast accommodation to prevent street homelessness. These arrangements, however, will be exceptional, only used as a last resort to prevent street homelessness, and will be short term.


4. Proposed Accommodation Pathway and Process for 16 -17 Year Olds

The pathway is in 7 stages:

Stage 1 Initial Contact
Stage 2 Initial interview
Stage 3 Initial Decision
Stage 4 Screening
Stage 5 Decision after Screening / Provision of Immediate / Emergency Accommodation / Assessment by CSSC
Stage 6 Comprehensive Assessment and Provision of Sustainable Accommodation
Stage 7 Pathways and Support Planning

Key to the pathway is:

  • Where a single agency assessment identifies the need, a holistic assessment of the young person's needs via the Common Assessment Framework (CAF) or the Assessment Framework Triangle under Working Together 2015 is completed, together with an assessment of their suitability for sustainable accommodation, and their eligibility for accommodation under the Housing Act 1996 where they are homeless or potentially homeless. The assessments will give appropriate consideration to the young person's informed choice and their level of resourcefulness to manage in the accommodation provided, alongside their vulnerability;
  • A multi-agency plan, which agrees which services and actions are required to meet the young person's needs, will be drawn up and shared with the young person;
  • A Lead Professional will be appointed to coordinate the plan and the provision of services to meet the young person's assessed needs;
  • In appropriate cases, a multi agency team will be drawn from a range of agencies to support the Lead Professional and young person with the delivery of the coordinated package of support.

Stage 1 - Initial Contact

A young person may make contact with a number of different agencies or settings e.g:

  • Children's Social Care;
  • Other statutory or voluntary agencies such as YOS;
  • Self-referral to accommodation providers.
If the young person is considered to be at risk of harm, the procedures in Section 3 of this procedures manual should be followed.

Stage 2 - Initial Interview

An initial interview with the young person will be conducted. This will be a structured interview that will begin the information gathering and assessment process to determine whether a duty is owed to the young person, whether the young person has the capacity to access/will be able to cope in sustainable accommodation provided to agreed criteria, and/or whether the young person can be supported to return home or live with responsible adults in their wider family and friends network. Areas to be covered in the interview will include:

  • The current situation - i.e. why is the young person presenting as homeless?
  • Background history, family composition, accommodation history, etc. Whether previously/currently known to Children's Social Care, other agencies, CAF in place?
  • Support networks - what family members are there e.g. extended family members, friends that can offer support?
  • Confirmation of the age of the young person;
  • Resilience and protective factors;
  • Vulnerability - are there any immediate concerns re the vulnerability of the young person e.g. learning disabilities, mental health issues, child protection/safeguarding concerns?
  • Risks to themselves, others and to staff;
  • Information and advice about their entitlements to ensure they are in a position to make informed choices;
  • Advocacy needs, including the offer of an independent advocate, to ensure they are in a position to make informed choices;
  • Communication needs e.g. interpreter services;
  • The young person's views - what is the young person saying about the need for accommodation?
  • Views of those with Parental Responsibility (PR) - what are those with PR saying? Can the young person return home? NB there will be some circumstances where obtaining these views will put the young person at risk.

The initial interview process will involve an interview with the young person, but will also include making contact with parent/carers (where to do so would not put the young person at risk e.g. forced marriage, trafficking, sexual abuse) and other agencies as necessary to gather relevant information. The information recorded will be transferred to a CAF.

The young person will be given advice about their entitlements to ensure they are able to make informed choices.

If the young person is considered to be at risk of harm, the procedures in Section 3 of this procedures manual should be followed.

Stage 3 - Initial Decision

The information gathered during the initial interview should be analysed and evaluated to inform the initial decision and future action.

Young person presents as / is referred as homeless and can return home or stay with family/friends

  • The assessment confirms the young person can return home or stay with family/friends;
  • The assessment informs a package of support to facilitate and maintain return home or to family/friends.

A CAF will be completed to inform a support plan to meet the young person's needs, and enable them to remain at home. A multi-agency meeting will be convened (if appropriate), involving relevant services, the young person and their family, to agree a plan and identify a Lead Professional.

The Lead Professional and multi agency team will agree to coordinate and deliver the identified package of support (if appropriate).

If the assessment concludes that the young person's needs cannot be met by the CAF process, a referral will be made to Children's Social Care, supported by a CAF.

Where a young person is not able to return home, wider family and friends should be explored as options for the young person. Where this is available, this should be facilitated and supported and a CAF completed to inform a support plan to meet the young person's needs. The CAF may indicate the need to convene a multi-agency meeting to agree a multi-agency plan coordinated by a Lead Professional to support the young person to remain at home.

In the majority of circumstances, facilitating a placement of the young person with family and friends will fall outside private fostering regulations as they do not apply to young people over 16 years of age. Private fostering regulations do apply, however, if the young person is disabled. If the young person is disabled, consideration will therefore need to be given as to whether their level of disability means that this is a private fostering arrangement. If the young person is disabled, private fostering regulations will apply if the placement will be for more than 28 days and the placement is with anyone other than a parent, someone with Parental Responsibility, or those who fall within the definition of a relative under the Children Act 1989 i.e. a grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt (whether full blood, half blood or by affinity or civil partnership) or step-parent or a parent's civil partner. If it is considered that the placement may constitute a private fostering arrangement, a referral should be made to Children's Social Care.

Young person presents as / is referred as homeless and return back to home local authority facilitated
  • The assessment with the young person confirms that the young person can return back safely to the home local authority;
  • Referral is made to relevant services in home local authority with young person's consent, and information/assessments transferred to home local authority upon request.

Support into appropriate and sustainable accommodation

  • The assessment confirms that the young person, although not able to return home or to family and friends, is resourceful and that their needs can be met with support;
  • Referral for support services for the young person made;
  • A CAF will be completed to inform a multi- agency plan coordinated by a Lead Professional to support and maintain the young person in the accommodation;
  • Support package agreed in the young person's plan and provided via Lead Professional and multi agency tram if appropriate, assistance given to move into permanent accommodation when appropriate.

Support into appropriate emergency accommodation (including homelessness application where appropriate)

Where a young person is unable to return home, cannot access alternative sustainable accommodation, there is nowhere safe for them to stay that night, and therefore the only identifiable option is the provision of suitable emergency accommodation whilst further assessments are made, the young person will be referred to Children's Social Care. The referral will be supported by a summary of the Initial Interview/Initial Decision, which will clearly state the reasons for the referral, and the work that has been undertaken to attempt reconciliation. The referral will also be supported by any single agency assessments, and a CAF.

If the young person is considered to be at risk of harm, the procedures in Section 3 of this procedures manual should be followed.

Stage 4 - Screening by Children's Social Care

Following receipt of a referral, Children's Social Care will screen the referral immediately to determine if an Assessment is required having regard to the urgency of the young person's circumstances and any need to secure accommodation quickly to prevent street homelessness.

The Children's Social Care screening will use the information provided by the initial interview and will address the following key questions to confirm the information provided:

  • Is the age of the applicant confirmed as 16 -17 years?
  • Is the applicant a young person in need?
  • Is the young person within the Local Authority's area?
  • Does the young person appear to the Local Authority to require accommodation?
  • Is the need for accommodation the result of one of the criterion in Section 20 (1) (a) - (c) of the Children Act 1989 being met?
    1. There being no person who has Parental Responsibility for the young person;
    2. The young person is lost or abandoned;
    3. The person who has been caring for the young person being prevented (whether permanently and for whatever reason) from providing the young person with suitable accommodation or care.
  • Is the need for accommodation the result of s20 (3), which requires the local authority to provide accommodation for any young person in need within their area who has reached the age of 16 and whose welfare the authority consider is likely to be seriously prejudiced if they do not provide him with accommodation;
  • What are the young person's wishes and feelings regarding the provision of accommodation?
  • What consideration (having regard to age and understanding) is to be given to those wishes and feelings?
  • Does any person with PR who is willing to provide accommodation for that young person object to the LA's intervention?
  • Even if there is an objection does the young person agree to being accommodated?
In order to ensure a prompt response, the screening can be brief if the relevant information is provided and confirmed.

Stage 5 - Decision after Screening / Provision of Immediate / Emergency Accommodation / Assessment by Children's Social Care

If the screening confirms that a return home is not immediately viable and emergency accommodation is required, Children's Social Care will secure immediate accommodation for the young person to prevent street homelessness. This will mean that the young person will become Looked After under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989 whilst their needs for continuing accommodation and support are assessed. Children's Social Care will be responsible for the funding and immediate provision of the accommodation, although they can request assistance from Homelessness Services in the relevant Housing Authority in identifying appropriate accommodation. Consideration also needs to be given to how to support the young person to obtain food, clothing and other essentials.

Children's Social Care will undertake an Assessment of the young person's needs. The Assessment will be informed by all the available information. The Assessment will include a risk assessment if bed and breakfast is provided in acute situations to prevent street homelessness. The social worker undertaking the Assessment will be the Lead Professional.

Stage 6 - Comprehensive Assessment and Provision of Sustainable Accommodation

Whilst immediate accommodation is provided, young people will be offered a comprehensive joint assessment of need to identify the young person's needs and to inform a plan for the young person. Children's Social Care will lead the joint assessment, with contributions from partner agencies and homelessness services. The assessment will be undertaken concurrently with the statutory homelessness assessment undertaken by the housing authority. The assessments will give appropriate consideration to the young person's informed choice and their level of resilience and resourcefulness to manage in the accommodation provided alongside their vulnerability. The assessments will be completed within the required timescales to ensure that the young person can be moved on from emergency accommodation when it is safe to do so.

During the assessments, social workers will continue to explore the possibility of the young person returning to family, wider family or to friends, and where this is a safe option, will positively support this. Professionals will draw on a range of interventions including mediation and Family Group Conferencing.

The assessments will inform the decision as to whether the young person continues to meet the criteria for section 20 and whether the young person is a young person in need under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989, and whether the young person is owed a duty under the Housing Act 1996 or is intentionally homeless. These decisions will inform the pathways and support planning in Stage 7.

It is essential that the young person is fully consulted about and understands the implications of being accommodated by Children's Social Care and becoming looked after. Professionals conducting the assessment must provide realistic and full information about the support that the young person can expect as a looked after child and, subsequently as a care leaver. Children's Social Care and Homelessness Services should also ensure that that the young person is informed of their entitlements and receives accurate information about what assistance may be available to them, including from housing services under Part 7 of the 1996 Act, if they do not become looked after, and how any entitlement for assistance will be determined. In particular, the possible risk of becoming homeless intentionally in the future, and the implications of this for further assistance with accommodation, should be made clear to the young person.

It is recommended that, in order to make an informed choice, the young person is offered an independent advocate.

Stage 7 - Pathways and Support Planning

After the comprehensive assessment and decision at Stage 6, there are 5 exit pathways for young people.

  1. Return home (with or without support) or stay with family/friends;
  2. Referral and facilitated return back to home L.A;
  3. Support into appropriate sustainable accommodation (including homelessness application where appropriate);
  4. Support into appropriate sustainable accommodation (Section 17 Children Act 1989);
  5. Support into appropriate sustainable accommodation - young person becomes Looked After (Section 20 Children Act 1989).
Whichever pathway is decided, it is critical that an effective plan to support the young person is agreed and implemented, and that the young person is fully informed about the decisions made and why. The Lead Professional and multi agency team in support are key to the successful implementation of the plan and to achieve the best outcomes for the young person whether they return home or secure alternative sustainable accommodation.
  1. Young person presents as /is referred as homeless and can return home or stay with family:
    • The assessment confirms discharge of section 20, and that the young person is in need under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989. The young person does not require accommodation, as (s)he can stay at home or with wider family or friends. The assessment informs the package of support to facilitate and maintain the return home to family or relatives and friends, and prevent future homelessness;
    • The allocated Social Worker will arrange a multi agency young person/child in need meeting to consider whether a new Lead Professional can be identified or whether a period of case planning is required to ensure the young person's needs continue to be met which should include the completion of an Assessment (if not already completed);
    • Where applicable, the Lead Professional agrees to coordinate and deliver package of support.
  2. Young person presents as /is referred as homeless and facilitated return back to home local authority:
    • Assessment confirms discharge of Section 20 and that the young person can return back to home local authority;
    • Return to home local authority facilitated;
    • Referral made to home local authority by the social worker and assessments transferred to home local authority.
  3. Support into appropriate sustainable accommodation:
    • Social work assessment confirms discharge of Section 20 and that the Lead Professional functions can be transferred safely from Children's Social Care to another agency. The homeless assessment confirms that the young person requires accommodation and that there is a duty to provide accommodation under part 7 of the Housing Act 1996;
    • Children's Social Care will inform the Housing Authority of their decision and will refer the young person back to Homelessness Services in the relevant Housing Authority for the provision of sustainable accommodation;
    • In these instances, a multi-agency planning meeting will be convened to agree a support package, a Lead Professional and if appropriate a multi agency team to ensure that the young person does not become intentionally homeless in the future;
    • Social work and homeless assessments confirm there is no duty to provide accommodation for the young person, and that the young person is capable and resourceful, and does not meet Section 17 or Section 20 criteria of the Children Act 1989 criteria;
    • Accommodation provided by the relevant housing authority for a reasonable period usually 28 days and referral made for CAF and support services;
    • If the young person leaves accommodation without securing somewhere to stay, a package of support will be agreed by the Lead Professional, who will consult with and refer to Children's Social Care if they believe the young person is at risk as they have nowhere to stay.
  4. Support into appropriate sustainable accommodation (Section 17 Children Act 1989):
    • Children's Social Care secures suitable emergency accommodation whilst the young person's needs are assessed;
    • Children's Social Care's Assessment and statutory homelessness assessment completed jointly within 7 working days so that the young person can be moved on within 7 working days;
    • The assessments confirm that the young person is owed a duty under the Housing Act 1996, and that the young person is in need under Section17 of the Children Act 1989 but resourceful and not wishing to become looked after. Children's Social Care will inform the Housing Authority of their decision and will refer the young person back to Homelessness Services in the relevant Housing Authority for the provision of sustainable accommodation. The young person will therefore be supported under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 but will continue to be provided with accommodation under homelessness legislation;
    • The allocated Social Worker will arrange a multi agency Child in Need Meeting to consider whether a new Lead Professional can be identified or whether a period of case planning is required to ensure the young person's needs continue to be met which should include the completion of the Assessment (if not already completed);
    • Lead Professional agrees to coordinate multi agency plan/team to deliver package of support to prevent future homelessness.

      NB - national guidance issued in April 2010 on the Provision of Accommodation for 16 and 17 year old young people who may be homeless and/or require accommodation states that the powers of local authorities to provide accommodation under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 cannot be used to substitute for their duty to provide accommodation under Section 20(1) of the Children Act 1989 to homeless 16 and 17 year olds who are assessed as children in need. Children's Social Care does not, therefore, have the option of choosing under which provision they should provide accommodation for homeless 16 and 17 year olds. Section 20 involves an evaluative judgment on some matters but not discretion.
  5. Support into appropriate sustainable accommodation - Young person becomes Looked After (Section 20 Children Act 1989):
    • Children's Social Care secures suitable emergency accommodation whilst the young person's needs are assessed;
    • Assessment and statutory homelessness assessment completed jointly within 7 working days so that the young person can be moved on within 7 working days;
    • The young person is assessed as homeless and a young person in need without resource and wishing to become Looked After. The young person will be accommodated/become looked after under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989 and provided with suitable accommodation.


5. Exceptional Circumstances

This section of the protocol concerns cases where there are particular circumstances, including out of hours/emergency referrals; teenage parents; and young people who are ordinarily resident in a different local authority.

Out of hours/emergency referrals

Where young people present as homeless outside of office hours, the priority must be the safety and well being of the young person, and, where needed, accommodation will be provided until the next working day. A referral will be made to the Emergency Duty Service in Children's Social Care, which will be responsible for the funding of this accommodation agreed through the Emergency Duty Service. The young person will then be referred the next working day for an initial interview under Stage 1 of this protocol.

Teenage parents and pregnant teenagers

Sufficient resource has been secured for teenage parents and pregnant teenagers who are homeless or who are at risk of being homeless to be dealt with in the same way as the other young people in the protocol.

A risk assessment should be carried out for any 16/17 year old parent or pregnant 16/17 year old referred to Bed and Breakfast accommodation.

Locality is a particular issue in relation to teenage parents. If they are housed away from their support networks, it can have a detrimental effect. Young parents should be able to access extra support to try to avoid breakdown of any arrangements.

Although the young person may become Looked After as a result of being homeless, their child may not necessarily need to do so and it is important that individual assessments are undertaken on both the young person and their child.

Ordinary Residence

Where young people are ordinarily resident in one local authority area and seek assistance in a different local authority, the priority will be to return these young people to their home area where the home local authority will take responsibility for completing the assessment processes outlined in this protocol. Where needed, travel warrants or bus fares will be provided by either Homelessness Services or Children's Social Care.

The initial interview, perhaps combined with enquiries in the area where the young person came from, should be sufficient to establish their connection with the area where they have sought help and their reasons for seeking help there rather than in their "home" district. These enquiries may be able to establish whether it may be possible for the young person to return to the area where they may be presumed to have a stronger local connection.

Enquiries will be made with young people from abroad to establish a local connection. Those who do not have a local connection with another local authority will be regarded as ordinarily resident in the area where they are seeking support

Where boundary disputes arise and cannot be resolved immediately, these disputes should not be allowed to prejudice the young person's welfare and further advice should be sought from relevant Senior Managers and/or Legal Services.

Young people placed in the area by other local authorities

When young people are placed in accommodation in one area by other local authorities, particularly in bed and breakfast accommodation, the placing local authority will ensure that the young person has a Lead Professional to coordinate a package of support and lead on a risk assessment. The details of the Lead Professional will be known to the young person and to the agencies/services with whom the young person comes into contact.

See also North West Protocol in Relation to Children in Need Moving Across Local Authority Boundaries.


6. Additional Local Information

Salford: Joint Protocol between Housing Services and Children’s Services for 16 and 17 Year Olds.

End