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4.7 Homeless 16/17 Year Olds

This chapter was added to the manual in July 2021.


Contents

  1. Background and Context
  2. Statutory Guidance and Legislation
  3. Referral Process for Homeless 16/17-year olds
  4. Referrals via the MASH
  5. Referrals Direct to the Homelessness Team
  6. Open Children to Social Care
  7. Consultation with Social Care
  8. Moving into an EBS
  9. Child and Family Assessment
  10. Outcome of Child and Family Assessment


1. Background and Context

Where a 16 or 17-year-old seeks help from local authority children’s services or is referred to children’s services by some other person or agency as appearing to be homeless or threatened with homelessness, children’s services must carry out an assessment of what duties, if any, are owed to them. This applies to all young people, including 17-year olds who are approaching their 18th birthday, and young people who are pregnant or have children in their care. Where the duty in section 20 of the 1989 Act is triggered the local authority are under a duty to accommodate the child.

Where a 16 or 17-year-old seeks help or is referred, and it appears that they have nowhere safe to stay that night, then children’s services must secure suitable emergency accommodation for them under section 20 of the 1989 Act, whilst their needs, including their need for continuing accommodation and support, are further assessed. If the young person is accommodated for a continuous period of more than 24 hours the young person will become looked after pending the completion of a Child and Family Assessment. (further information on section 20 below).


2. Statutory Guidance and Legislation

Section 20(1) requires that:

  • Every local authority shall provide accommodation for any child in need within their area who appears to them to require accommodation as a result of:
    • There being no person who has parental responsibility for them;
    • Their being lost or having been abandoned; or
    • The person who has been caring for them is prevented (whether or not permanently, and for whatever reason) from providing them with suitable accommodation or care.
  • There are only two circumstances in which a local authority might find that a homeless young person should not be accommodated under Section 20 and may instead be owed duties under Housing Act 1996. These are where the young person is:
    • Not a child in need;
    • A 16 or 17-year-old child in need who, having been properly and fully advised of the implications and having the capacity to reach a decision, has decided that they do not want to be accommodated under section 20.
  • Where a young person seeks help because they are homeless or threatened with homelessness it is good practice for an assessment of the young person’s needs to be conducted.

See Youth Homelessness


3. Referral Process for Homeless 16/17-year olds

  • Homelessness referrals will generally come in to Children’s Services one of two routes – via the MASH or directly to the Homelessness team.


4. Referrals via the MASH

  • MASH will contact the young person and their family to assess the current situation. If there is an imminent threat of homelessness, then the MASH will contact the RAWs in order for them to complete the A1 form with the young person;
  • MASH will progress the referral to the Assessment Service duty Team Manager as a priority.


5. Referrals Direct to the Homelessness Team

  • In the event of no lead professional involved RAW will be alerted within an hour of notification and will contact the young person within 2 hours. Wherever possible this should be face-to-face. RAW will make significant attempts to assess and resolve relationship breakdown with parents/carers, before considering accommodation of a young person;
  • RAW will begin mediation with the family, in order to facilitate a return home if possible and if safe to do so;
  • Where a young person is not able to return home, wider family and friends will be explored as options for the young person. This will be supported and facilitated by RAW;
  • RAW will then make a referral to MASH and the referral will be progressed as a priority to the Assessment Service duty Team Manager.  In this instance there is no need for the MASH to contact the family as there is an expectation that RAW will already have done so and provided this information to MASH who will advise RAW who the duty Team Manager in the Assessment Service is.


6. Open Children to Social Care

  • For emergency requests where young people are already open to social care, the social worker should contact the Homelessness team on 0115 8041470 to ensure an emergency bed space (EBS) is available. The allocated social worker will complete the A1 form in these circumstances.


7. Consultation with Social Care

  • Once the above steps have been taken and all options thoroughly explored, RAW will consult with the Assessment Service duty Team Manager, to determine whether the young person should come into an EBS and be accommodated under S20 of the Children Act 1989 pending the completion of a Child and Family Assessment.;
  • If the Assessment Service duty Team Manager does not agree that the young person should be offered an EBS, then the RAW will need to work with the young person and their family/carers to enable them to remain at home. The Assessment Service will still offer a Child and Family Assessment to the young person to determine whether there are any other support needs;
  • If the Assessment Service duty Team Manager does agree that the young person should be offered an EBS and therefore, considered S20 Children Act 1989, the placement planning meeting will be held by the Assessment Service within 72 hours of this decision. This will be chaired by a Team Manager within the Assessment Service and the RAW and other relevant professionals will be invited to this meeting;
  • The young person’s written consent to S20 Children Act 1989 must be gained on the same date that S20 is agreed by the Assessment Team Manager. This must also include written consent to the Initial Health Assessment (IHA);
  • The Assessment Service will alert the Looked After Children’s service that the young person has been accommodated under S20 Children Act 1989 with the expectation that the Looked After Children’s service will co-allocate a social worker who will then liaise with the Assessment Service and begin preparations for the Looked After review;
  • The Assessment Service will book the 1st Looked After Review immediately following the placement planning meeting.


8. Moving into an EBS

If the Team Manager has agreed it is appropriate to accommodate the young person RAW will undertake the following:

  • Complete the A1 form including Section 2 which refers to mediation and S3 which refers to the status of the young person’s accommodation needs;
  • Ensure that parents/carers have been informed of where the emergency bed space is, if the young person has consented to this and that it will only be a temporary measure pending the completion of a Child and Family Assessment;
  • Inform the young person of their legal status, they will be told that they will only temporarily become a looked after child under s20 as a result of being accommodated by children’s services for a continuous period of more than 24 hours. This will be explained to the young person alongside their right to opt out the legal status at any time;
  • Explain to the young person that they will be allocated a social worker who will aim to complete an assessment within two weeks to ascertain if they are to be accommodated on a longer-term basis and identify any other support needs, they may have;
  • Transport and settle the young person into the emergency bed space, providing any emergency essential items, e.g. toiletries, clothing etc;
  • Explain to the young person that the Family Service or Social Care could provide ongoing support on an Early Help or CIN plan if the young person returns home or goes to live with friends or family. RAW will also talk to the family about what support they need;
  • Attend the placement planning meeting which will have been arranged within 72 hours of the Assessment Team Manager agreeing S20 Children Act 1989;
  • Remain involved until the Child and Family Assessment is completed.


9. Child and Family Assessment

  • Most young people seeking help because of homelessness or threat of homelessness cite the breakdown of relationships with parents or other carers as the reason for their homelessness. The assessment will need to determine whether the young person can return home, with support for them and their family if necessary, or whether this is not a possible or a safe option;
  • However, the assessment will also need to be holistic in approach, addressing the young person’s wider needs, and, as well as the need for accommodation, it will be necessary to assess what further support the young person needs. For example, a homeless young person not participating in education or training would in the first place need suitable accommodation, but this should be arranged in conjunction with plans to re-engage them with education or training;
  • The Child and Family Assessment includes a section regarding ‘Homeless or sofa surfing’ which is mandatory and requires the young person’s written consent;
  • At the conclusion of a multi-agency assessment, local authority children’s services should have reached a decision on the young person’s needs, and/or the nature and level of any risk and harm being suffered by the young person, and the support that is required to address those needs to improve the young person’s outcomes;
  • Factors to consider as part of child and family assessment:
  Dimensions of need Issues to consider in assessing child’s future needs
1 Accommodation Does the child have access to stable accommodation?
How far is this suitable to the full range of the child’s needs?
2 Family and social relationships Assessment of the child’s relationship with their parents and wider family. What is the capacity of the child’s family and social network to provide stable and secure accommodation and meet the child’s practical, emotional and social needs?
3 Emotional and behavioural development Does the child show self-esteem, resilience and confidence?
Assessment of their attachments and the quality of their relationships. Does the child show self-control and appropriate self-awareness?
4 Education, training and employment Information about the child’s education experience and background.
Assessment as to whether support may be required to enable the child to access education, training or employment
5 Financial capability and independent living skills Assessment of the child’s financial competence and how they will secure financial support in future.
Information about the support the child might need to develop self-management and independent living skills.
6 Health and development Assessment of child’s physical, emotional and mental health needs.
7 Identity Assessment of the child’s needs as a result of their ethnicity, preferred language, cultural background, religion or sexual identity.


10. Outcome of Child and Family Assessment

  • In some cases, it may not be necessary for the young person to be accommodated on a long-term basis by children’s services because the young person’s needs can be met by providing other services, for example, support to enable the young person to return to the care of their family or other responsible adults in the young person’s network;
  • Where there is an identified option for the young person to return home or to the care of an identified other person, then the Assessment Service will alert the District Child Protection Team (DCPT) with the expectation that the DCPT service will co-allocate a social worker who will then liaise with the Assessment Service and begin preparations for the Looked After review;
  • The young person will transfer to the DCPT at the conclusion of the child and family assessment in these circumstances;
  • If children’s services conclude that the young person does not require accommodation for this reason, and the young person has returned home during the course of the Child and Family Assessment, it may be that the outcome of the assessment is that services should be provided for the young person under section 17 of the 1989 Act, as a child in need. Where the local authority decides to provide services, a Child in Need plan should be developed which sets out which agencies will provide which services to the child and family. In these circumstances, the Assessment Service will arrange and chair the Child in Need (CIN) planning meeting and invite the DCPT to attend. The young person will transfer to the DCPT from this meeting;
  • If it is determined by a Child and Family Assessment that the young person is homeless and should be accommodated on a long-term basis under S20 Children Act 1989, then agreement will be sought from Children’s Service Manager by the Team Manager;
  • The young person will transfer to the Looked After Children’s Service at the conclusion of the child and family assessment in these circumstances.

End