Pathway of support for homeless young people

Young people who approach their local authority for help should be given support to prevent or relieve their homelessness. This might include support to access housing, mediation to rebuild family relationships or financial assistance. The support that someone receives if they go to their council for help because they are homeless or at risk varies across each nation.

England and Wales

The journey of support in England and Wales is essentially the same, though some of the language used to describe the steps different.

The Wales (Housing) Act 2014 was the first legislation in the UK to introduce a duty to prevent homelessness and was inspiration for the Homelessness Reduction Act 2018 in England.

How does it work?

In both nations, young people can expect to receive

  • up to 56 days of prevention support
  • up to 56 days of relief support

This support is given regardless of whether the young person is priority need or is deemed intentionally homeless.

If the prevention and relief work is unsuccessful then the young person is assessed to determine if they are owed a full housing duty.

Northern Ireland

The Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) assesses whether someone is homeless or at risk across the whole nation, rather than individual local councils.

How does it work?

Young people in Northern Ireland who are eligible, unintentionally homeless, and in priority need are owed a duty to help them secure accommodation. Eligibility criteria are more complex in Northern Ireland than elsewhere in the UK as prior behaviour is also considered. For anyone who is not owed a housing duty, the NIHE only has a duty to provide advice, often additional prevention and relief work is carried out.


Scottish homelessness policy operates on a significantly different model to the other nations.

How does it work?

Local authorities have a duty to find permanent accommodation for all those who are not deemed intentionally homeless. They also have an interim duty to secure accommodation whilst they assess whether or not an applicant is homeless.

If the applicant is assessed to have become homeless intentionally, a local authority has a duty to provide advice and assistance and they must also provide temporary accommodation for long enough to give them a chance to find their own housing.


National differences in the data

The Youth Homelessness Databank displays the number of young people aged 16 to 24 who presented as homeless or at risk of homelessness to their local authority. The subsequent support that a young person can expect to receive does vary by nation; you’ll see that the data varies. In England, the implementation of the Homelessness Reduction Act also changes the data collected from 2018 onwards.

In the United Kingdom, responsibility for tackling homelessness is devolved and each nation has adopted different duties to those who approach them for help. England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have different homelessness policies so the data is not directly comparable. In Scotland, for example, the proportion of young people who are accepted and owed a housing duty will be far higher than in England as those presenting in Scotland do not need to meet the 'priority need' criteria that young people in England do.

More details on these differences can be found in the Parliamentary Briefing.

This also means that some of the data across the devolved nations appears incomplete. In Scotland, for example, prevention and relief is not part of the support plan and, as such, there is no data on this. Furthermore, as across Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, all young people seeking help should be given an assessment, the data collected on these reflects this.

Contact us

If you would like further information please contact the Centrepoint policy team: