There are various different types of accommodation for young people we work with, and what is available to you will vary depending on your age and needs.
If when you transfer to our service, you are in a residential or foster placement, you will be supported to continue to live with your carers or in your residential placement, if this is what is best for you and most appropriate. If for some reason this is no longer possible, you will be provided with suitable alternative accommodation and this accommodation will be paid for by the service until you are 18 years old.
Fostering can be short term, but sometimes this is the best option as a longer-term arrangement. Fostering is the full-time care of children outside their own home by one or two foster carers or parents, in a home environment. This will sometimes involve other young people who are in care living with you or children of the foster carers living with you too.
A residential unit is a home that has a number of young people living there. There are staff on site who are there to support you and a residential setting might be better for some young people, sometimes when a foster placement is not appropriate.
Supported lodgings is very similar to a foster placement – this is still living in a home, with someone there to support you. You may be living with a single person, a couple, and with other young people or children. Supported lodgings is normally for young people 16 and over.
Supported lodgings is often seen as a ‘stepping stone’ to independence, and often is a good opportunity to have a little more time to strengthen your independence skills in a supportive environment, before moving on to full independence.
You will be expected to contribute £25 per week towards your accommodation, food and bills, to help you get used to budgeting before you move to independence, where you will have to pay your own bills and rent.
Friends or family
A ‘friends or family’ placement can sometimes be an option for some young people. This arrangement can be a temporary one, acting as a bridge to your next accommodation, or as a longer-term solution, depending on what is right for you.
For most young people, moving straight from care to independent living is too big a step. You will often be able to make a more successful transition if this is done in a more planned and supportive way.
A lot of young people will feel they are ready to be independent earlier than their carers, or social workers. The prospect of more independence is exciting, but it is important to work with your social worker/personal advisor to make sure it is the right time for you.
Under a ‘Staying Put’ arrangement a young person can potentially remain with foster carers if this is agreed as a the best plan for you, meaning that you could stay up until you are 21, instead of 18 as before. The law changed in May 2014 so young people would be able to have a smoother transition into adulthood by having the opportunity to stay in a foster placement if this was viable and in their best interests.
You can read more about staying put and what this means here:
Sometimes, depending on your needs, it can be possible to be in a supported lodgings arrangement after you turn 18. You will still receive the same support as when you were under 18, but hopefully with more of a focus on developing your indepence skills. To do this, the you will need to be involved in education, training or employment after you turn 18.
If you are living in supported lodgings placement after 18, you will still be expected to contribute £25 per week towards your accommodation, food and bills, to help you get used to budgeting before you move to independence, where you will have to pay your own bills and rent.
Supported accommodation projects, like the foyer or a YMCA housing projects may also an option for you. Supported accommodation involves having your own room, sometimes your own kitchen and bathroom with support on site from members of staff. The sizes of these will vary and you could be living with between 10 and 50+ other young people.
Normally, you should have regular ‘key work’ sessions with staff on site to support you around things you feel you need help with, with a focus on developing your independence skills. This type of accommodation is often seen as a stepping-stone towards independence too, when you are not quite ready to live on your own but you are well on your way!
A young person in supported accommodation should normally have some form of 'move-on' assistance’. This is what will happen if you have used the accommodation well and when you and your workers feel you are ready for more independence, this could be in a shared house or in the form of your own self-contained flat with less support staff on site.
Independent living – Your options and things to think about
The main types of accommodation options for you after you have turned 18 and are ready for independence include the private rented sector and the social housing sector.
You may need to provide written confirmation to the council from your worker, which states that you are ready for independence, in support of your housing application. If this is needed the council will request this.
Holding a tenancy
A tenancy agreement is a contract between you and a landlord when you are living on your own, in a flat or house. It lets you live in a property as long as you pay rent and follow the rules. It also sets out the legal terms and conditions of your tenancy. It can be written down or a spoken agreement, but it will be best for you to get this written down.
A tenancy can either be fixed-term (running for a set period of time) or periodic (running on a week-by-week or month-by-month basis). Both you and your landlord have certain rights and responsibilities, whether or not you have a tenancy agreement.
Legally, you can’t hold or sign a tenancy agreement until you are 18 years old.
Private rented properties
Private rented properties are advertised through private letting agents.
Given the limited number of social rented homes in most areas, there can be more choice of properties in the private rented sector.
Some privately rented properties with landlords don’t accept housing benefit as payments for rent but there are some that do, so it may be worth exploring this with support from your worker.
You will also probably need a guarantor, which is a known person to you who can provide a guarantee that the rent will be paid by them, should you fail to pay the rent one month.
Social housing or council properties
In order to find a 'council' home, you can apply to local social housing providers, such as your local council and housing associations. You can do this when you are 18 years old, with the support from your worker.
You will need to apply to the housing department in the area which you have what is called a ‘local connection’ to. Local connection is about your links with an area. You have a local connection with a local council's area if you fall into certain categories.
There is more information found here. But if you are still unsure, speak to your worker supporting you.
There is usually a waiting list for properties and how quickly you secure a property will depend on your circumstances. The council will give priority to certain groups of people, which can include care leavers, children who live with you, if you’re pregnant and if you are homeless, amongst other things.
Most housing associations have what’s called a ‘choice based lettings system’. This is when rather than homes being allocated by the council, choice based lettings allow people to bid for the available properties they are interested in.
You can find out more about how to apply for or bid for properties here.
Moving back home
Most young care leavers have some form of contact with their birth family throughout and after their time in care.
Some young people will choose to return home when they leave care, sometimes for a short period of time, or long term. For some, this can be a good outcome. But, returning home does not always work out for young people the way they had hoped. This is not unusual but this can mean moving home can sometimes be challenging and not necessarily the best option for you.
Under the Children (Leaving Care 2000) Act, returning to live with family can affect the type and level of support you receive from the service. This is something that will be discussed with you if this is something you are thinking about, and will be important for you to consider what this may mean for you before making any decisions. Generally, if a young person returns home successfully to a parent (or someone with parental responsibility) for a continuous period of six months, the support you receive can change.
However, if you decide to move home and later decide you want to change your decision, speak to the care leavers service about this and you will be supported to find alternative arrangements.
Do you feel you need some support in holding a tenancy or maintaining your accommodation?
Homeworks is a service in Sussex which can support you in holding a tenancy, to prevent homelessness and to help you access safe and affordable housing. You can refer yourself to this on their website here, or you can speak to your worker to help you do this.
What to do if you find yourself homeless?
The first thing you need to do is to attend the housing department and let your worker know.
Not sure where the housing department of your local council is? Check here: https://www.gov.uk/homelessness-help-from-council
Housing will assess your situation and needs to see if they have a duty to house you straight away. Make sure you take some ID with you, to prove your age, nationality and if you’re a student or not.
During the assessment these questions will be considered:
• Are you legally considered to be homeless?
• Do you have a right to live in the UK and are you eligible for assistance?
• Can you be classified as being in priority need of help?
• Do you have a local connection with the council's area?
It may be that there is nothing available for the council to offer you for that night, in which case you may need to ask to stay at a friends or family for a few nights. (Please see below numbers and organizations that may be able to help you in this situation).
Homeless former care leavers aged between 18 and 21 (or 25 if you are still in full-time education) who were in care or fostered between the ages of 16 and 18 should be considered to be a ‘priority need’ under the Housing Act 1996. Care leavers over 21 may also be considered to be in priority need if they are assessed to be vulnerable. In this situation, housing may request a supporting letter from the Through Care service confirming your legal status to take with you as evidence.
What does being ‘intentionally homeless’ mean?
During the assessment with housing, you will be assessed to see whether you have made yourself ‘intentionally homeless’, which will affect the councils decision about whether you’re entitled to help with housing from them.
Here’s a video explaining what this means
You can make yourself ‘intentionally homeless’ by leaving accommodation that was available to you, getting evicted due to getting too behind with your rent, anti-social behavior or if you turned down a final offer of suitable accommodation from the council.
Other organisations which may be able to help:
Xtrax in Hastings: This is an organisation based in Hastings which could support you in attending housing appointments, or in other ways if you find yourself homeless. They are based near Hastings train station, Sussex Coast college. Their number is 01424 722524.
Shelter’s Housing advice helpline: This free helpline will give you instant practical advice on what you can do next. Call them on 0808 800 4444 8am-8pm Monday to Friday, 8am-5pm weekends) for advice on any of these options.
Homeless Day Centres: They don’t offer emergency accommodation, but they can help you find it. Day centres will have housing advisors trained in long- and short-term accommodation and links with local hostels. You can also buy cheap hot food, stay warm, and get internet access. To find a local day centre, use this search tool by Homeless UK – making sure you highlight ‘day centre’ or ‘homeless advice’ on the search form.
Look for a Nightstop scheme: If you’re aged 16–25, you may be able to get onto a Nightstop scheme (nation wide) which lets you stay in the safe home of a volunteer. Check to see if there’s a scheme near you using this interactive map on their website here.