If you’re under 25 and used to be in care – even for a short time – you should have rights and entitlements which can help you when you’re facing homelessness. It’s worth talking with professionals to get the support you’re entitled to.
On this page, you can find out more about what this support looks like. Contact the Centrepoint Helpline if you would like to talk this through.
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How do I make a homeless application?
Do I need to go through local connection to get accommodation?
What financial support am I entitled to?
What other support can I get to help me find somewhere to live?
Am I a care leaver?
A care leaver is someone who has spent time living in the care system, away from their family.
If you have been looked after by your local council for at least 13 weeks since the age of 14 and you left care on or after your 16th birthday, you are classed as a care leaver in law. The support you’re entitled to depends on how long you spent in care and your age at the time.
For example, if you spent any time in care after your 16th birthday, you will probably be entitled to support from social services up to the age of 25.
Use this helpful tool to work out if you are a care leaver and find out more about what support you can access.
Am I homeless?
Some people who leave care don't always have accommodation lined up, so they might find themselves sofa surfing. Sofa surfing is when you stay for short periods with different friends or family because you have nowhere to live. Even though this gives you a temporary roof over your head, you are still classed as homeless.
You have rights to help you find somewhere to live long term. You do not have to wait until you are rough sleeping to get help.
You will need to follow these eight steps to make a homeless application.
Contact the Centrepoint Helpline to find out more about making a homeless application.
Am I classed as ‘priority need’ when I make a homeless application if I’m a care leaver?
If you’re under 21 and you are classed as a care leaver, yes, you are ‘priority need’ when you make a homeless application. That means your local council has a duty to find you emergency accommodation if you don’t have anywhere to live.
If you’re over 21, you are not classed as ‘priority need’ because you are a care leaver unless you are:
- In education
- Considered to be vulnerable because you have been in care.
So, if you make a homelessness application over the age of 21, you may be assessed in the same way as people who aren’t care leavers. That means you are classed as ‘priority need’ if you:
- Are at risk of domestic abuse
- Are pregnant
- Have children
- Have physical or mental health conditions
- Have lost your accommodation because of an emergency such as a fire or flood
- Are vulnerable. It’s up to the council whether this applies or not.
Yes, you would need a local connection for long term accommodation. For shorter term accommodation, you may be able to find temporary or emergency accommodation in an area that isn't local to you. But the council is likely to refer you back to your personal advisor at your local council to find you long term accommodation.
A local connection means that you have:
- Lived in the area for six of the last 12 months, or three of the previous five years
- A permanent job in the area
- A close family member who has lived in the area for five years or more.
Find out more about making a homeless application at your local council.
If you’re under 18 and a care leaver, social services pay for things like your accommodation so you can’t claim benefits, such as housing benefit, which cover the same things.
There are some exceptions which mean you may be able to claim Universal Credit. You can find out more about these exceptions through Turn2us.
If you are over 18 and are a care leaver not in education, you should be able to claim other benefits.
When you move into your own home, you can ask your local council for the Setting Up Home Allowance, also known as a Leaving Care Grant. This is usually up to £2,000 and is to help you buy things for your new home, like furniture and appliances.
Use this benefits calculator to find out if you may be entitled to any benefits.
Find out more about other financial support for young people leaving care.
If the Department for Work and Pensions says you aren’t a care leaver but social services think you are, it’s worth getting help from an advocacy service.
As a care leaver, your council needs to assign you a personal advisor until you turn 25. They are your main point of contact with social services. They might be a social worker or someone from the leaving care team at the council. When you’re under 21, they have a duty to make sure you have somewhere to live.
It’s your choice whether you accept to have a personal advisor when you are over 21. You might not want to accept this if you have had a bad experience with the care system. However, having someone to identify your goals and help you overcome challenges can be helpful and open up opportunities for other support.
Personal housing plan
If you make a homeless application, your council should work with you to complete a personal housing plan. This should last for 56 days from the date you are told in writing that they are going to help you. The plan will set out the steps that you and the council need to take so that you can stay in, or find, suitable accommodation.
If you’re a care leaver, your local council must write a pathway plan with you when you reach 16. It should explain how they will support you with accommodation, education, training, financial support, or a job. This must be reviewed at least every six months so is a way to access support with housing. You should have a copy of the plan so that you can check if you’re receiving all the support you need.
What other organisations can help care leavers?
If you are a care leaver and need some support to get the help you’re entitled to, you can get independent advice from an advocacy service. They will provide you with one-to-one support from an advocate, who can help you:
- Challenge decisions, like ones the council makes about housing
- Understand your rights
- Figure out what your options are when you have left care
- Connect with other services
- Liaise with social services, especially when relationships with them have become difficult.
You can also contact:
Visit the Barnardo's website to find your local advocacy service