SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This chapter provides an overview of the Services Provided by Bradford MDC to homeless 16 and 17 year olds. It outlines the approach which the Council takes when providing services to homeless young people and contains information on referral and assessment processes.
This document was reviewed locally and updated throughout in May 2015, it should be re-read.
1. Our Approach
Homelessness is defined as being roofless or threatened with being roofless within the next 28 days. It includes sofa surfing and sleeping in non domestic settings such as cars or garages. Young people can also be homeless due to threat of violence, either from within the household or outside. Being homeless is usually very distressing, having a detrimental impact on a young person's emotional and mental health, their ability to stay safe, their progress in education or training, their capacity to contribute to society and their economic well being.
The Local Authority has responsibilities to homeless 16 and 17 year olds in both housing and children's legislation, particularly the 1996 Housing Act, the 2002 Homelessness Act and the 1989 Children's Act. Responsibilities under children's legislation take precedence.
Joint Department for Communities and Local Government and Department for Education Statutory Guidance is provided in Provision of Accommodation for 16 and 17 Year Olds Who May be Homeless and / or Require Accommodation, April 2010.
Whichever legislative framework applies, however, we take a corporate parenting approach to all homeless 16 and 17 year olds, providing services in partnership with voluntary sector supported housing providers (funded mainly through Adult Services - Housing Related Support), statutory homelessness services, other agencies such as Connexions, Integrated Youth Services and the Youth Offending Team, and in partnership with the young people themselves, to meet their needs and secure their welfare.
Taking a corporate parenting approach requires listening to young people, their wishes and feelings, assessing their capacity to hold them and the weight to be given to them and striking a balance between providing services to the extent that young people will accept and allow and taking a more protective and assertive stance where a young person's welfare requires it.
Sound assessment of the needs of young people in the context of their personal and family circumstances is crucial. Homeless 16 and 17 year olds often require:
- Personal support through the homelessness episode;
- Family mediation and reconciliation, unless inconsistent with their welfare;
- Support to remain within their natural communities, wider family and adult friendship networks where appropriate;
- Emergency accommodation and access to supported housing and a housing pathway if unable to return home;
- Immediate financial assistance for their maintenance and welfare benefits advice;
- Support to meet their ongoing health, education / training and identity needs and to maintain resilience-building leisure interests;
- Opportunity to develop self-care skills and to take on self responsibility, consistent with their age and stage of development.
Occasionally, homeless 16 and 17 year olds may require:
- Protection from harmful personal or family circumstances (such as neglect, domestic violence or forced marriage);
- Support through immigration and asylum processes or assistance to return safely to family in country of origin;
- Support to help protect themselves from the effects of their own patterns of behaviour or exploitation by others (for example if they have become involved in serious substance misuse, serious criminal activity, gang violence, radicalisation or sexual exploitation);
- Protection from serious self harm.
In addition homeless 16 and 17 year olds may on occasion themselves present serious risk of harm to other young people that also requires assessment.
2. Processes and Procedures
In order to avoid the dangers of street homelessness, any recognised advice agency (such as a voluntary sector advice centre, Information Shop for Young People, Connexions PA, Children's Services' office or Youth Offending Team) can refer a homeless young person directly to an emergency hostel, supported accommodation project or Nightstop. Centrepoint holds the Adult Services - Housing Related Support contract for 16 to 25 year olds and operates a "no second night out" policy.
During office hours, the preferred option is for 16 and 17 year olds to be referred to the joint service provided by Housing Options and Leaving Care (on behalf of Children's Services). This service aims to provide an integrated homelessness pathway, combining reconciliation and mediation, housing options and Children's Act assessment. It can arrange emergency accommodation where required either through the Centrepoint Housing Pathway or within supported accommodation funded through Children's Services. Youth homelessness workers from Leaving Care Service will provide personal support, access to urgent financial assistance, co-ordination of Children's Services options with other emergency provision and to undertake Children's Act assessment.
The joint services provided by Housing Options and Leaving Care are based within the Information Shop for Young People at Culture Fusion, 125 Thornton Road, Bradford BD1 2EP Tel: 01274 432 431.
A youth homelessness worker is on duty daily and can also be contacted through Leaving Care (Tel: 01274 436 760).
Where homeless 16 and 17 year olds present at a Children's Services office, a contact and referral should be entered at that office and advice sought from the duty youth homelessness worker. Where appropriate, the young person can be re-directed by prior arrangement to Culture Fusion with appropriate means to get there if the situation cannot be resolved by that office. Young people, however, must not just be sent from service to service. A referral taken by a Children's Services assessment team, however, can be transferred to the youth homelessness worker after discussion with the Leaving Care Service.
Where an existing Child In Need case, already open to a Children's Services team, becomes homeless, the worker should consult with the duty youth homelessness worker about emergency provision and accompany the young person to Culture Fusion, unless other action is appropriate
Where in the course of a homelessness presentation, concerns arise that may require Section 47 Enquiry, the relevant Children's Services Assessment Team will be consulted and a referral made or transferred to that team if required.
Out of Office hours, referrals of homeless 16 and 17 year olds can be made to Nightstop (up to 9.00 pm) or to the Social Services Emergency Duty Team. Where required, the Emergency Duty Team will make emergency provision through housing services at Octavia Court.
3. Single Assessment
All homeless 16 and 17 year olds are entitled to an assessment of their needs under the 1989 Children Act, although some may refuse consent and, where deemed to have the capacity to refuse, it may not be practical to undertake an assessment without consent unless there are concerns about Significant Harm.
The Act applies irrespective of nationality or immigration status and homeless 16 and 17 year olds from outside the UK, such as citizens from other EU countries, visa overstayers or young people excluded from failed asylum seeking families may be particularly vulnerable and in need of assessment if they cannot be reunited with their families as they may have no recourse to public funds or entitlements under housing legislation. In some cases, assessment under the Human Rights Act may also be required.
There are separate procedures for unaccompanied asylum seeking young people (see Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children Procedure).
Young people who have accessed emergency accommodation without contact with Housing or Children's Services should be referred a Bradford Single Child Assessment and further housing options advice. Although young people who have accessed supported housing are no longer considered homeless under housing legislation, they are still entitled to a Single Assessment from Children's Social Care.
Normally Single Assessments under the Children's Act will be undertaken by the youth homelessness worker, but these may be undertaken by area Assessment Teams where this is more appropriate (for example if it runs alongside S.47 enquiries). The assessment must consider whether the young person is a Child In Need and what responsibilities apply within the Children Act
Supreme Court Judgments (notably the Southwark Judgment in 2009) have affirmed that where a homeless young person assessed as "in Need" meets the criteria for accommodation under Section 20 of the 1989 Children Act, the accommodation should be provided under that provision and local authorities may not choose to provide accommodation for lone children under other powers unless the young person, having been appropriately advised of their entitlements and being capable of making an informed choice, refuses such provision.
Decisions to Accommodate young people under S.20 are made by senior managers. Young people, however, particularly older 16 and 17 year olds, may only want accommodation and support through the initial phases of homelessness and may not want to become Looked After young people under the public care system. Likewise, the considered views of some young people may not become clear until the initial phase of homelessness is over, while some particularly vulnerable young people may already have become alienated from Children's Services and any thought of public care.
Irrespective of young people's views about becoming Looked After or not, an inter agency partnership and corporate parenting approach is likely to be required for most homeless 16 and 17 year olds to enable them to make successful transitions to adulthood, reunite with their families where possible and make the most of education and training opportunities.
Unless young people become Looked After, the single assessment is likely to result in a Child In Need Plan agreed with the young person and reviewed with them at periodic intervals. The Plan will set out the support agreed by Children's Services as a result of the assessment. Having become settled in supported accommodation, some young people may want to disengage with the Plan after receiving assistance through the initial phases of homelessness. In these circumstances the Plan should be reviewed with the young person and anyone else important to them, progress evaluated in terms of the outcomes for Every Child Matters (Be Healthy, Stay Safe, Enjoy and Achieve, Make a Positive Contribution and Achieve Economic Well-Being) and advice given as to how the young person can again re-engage with Children's Services if required.
4. Homeless Young People in Custody
In the light of legal judgments (2007 Sutton and 2009 Southwark), release planning for homeless 16 and 17 year olds in custody is a Children's Services responsibility, to be undertaken in liaison with the Youth Offending Team. Young people homeless on release are likely to be Children In Need who are owed a duty of accommodation under S.20 of the 1989 Children Act. Where the young person does not want to become Looked After on release and has capacity to hold such a view, the young person's wishes should be respected but Children's Services should still treat the transition from custody as a corporate parenting responsibility.
The Youth Offending Team will inform Children's Services as soon as it becomes evident that a young person in custody is likely to be homeless on release and the youth homelessness worker (or Child and Family Team case holder if young person is already an open case) will undertake a Children's Act assessment with a view to exploring family mediation and reconciliation, alternatives within the wider family or suitable adult friendship networks (either as a short term bridging arrangement or on a longer term basis) and accommodation options on release, determining what ongoing support the young person might also require while still in custody. The assessment should ascertain the young person's wishes and feelings and the weight that should be given to them.
Case planning should include contingency planning, particularly as attitudes and commitments (both on the part of the young person and any potential carer) can be subject to sudden change. Unless there are other reliable alternatives, referral should be made as soon as possible for supported housing on release and plans finalised in time for the pre release planning meeting usually held within a fortnight prior to the release date. Some young people are not ready for a supported tenancy on release and where a housing assessment indicates this, referral should be made for a different type of care placement.
Supported Housing Options:
The Chapter 4.2.8 Placement in Supported Housing / Lodgings explains the options available to Looked After young people who become care leavers. Similar options are available to homeless 16 and 17 year olds, whether owed a duty under S.20 of the 1989 Children Act or not and whether or not accepting a duty if owed. Similar procedures should be followed where applicable such as approval of family and friends as lodgings providers.
At Age 18 and Over:
Young people cease to be Children In Need at age 18, but Children's Services may continue to be provided for a short period afterwards to enable vulnerable young people who become 18 in unsettled circumstances to make the transition into settled accommodation. Advice from Connexions is available up to age 19. Nightstop, supported accommodation and help and advice from the Information Shop for Young People is available up to the age of 25. Young people who have become Looked After will continue to receive support at age 18 and over as Former Relevant care leavers. Young people who were owed a S.20 duty at age 16 or 17 but did not become Looked After may seek personal support and assistance with education or training needs from Leaving Care Service from the age of 18 to 25 and each case will be considered on its merits within the general policies of the Service.