The Centre for Excellence and Outcomes highlights ways to achieve successful transitions to independent living for young care leavers
For young people leaving care, being in safe, settled accommodation is a top priority. Achieving the successful transition to independent living is about having good quality accommodation, an affordable rent and access to help with budgeting and managing their accommodation.
Safe, settled accommodation can be defined as:
● Suitable for the young care leaver in the light of his or her needs.
● That which takes into account the young person’s likes and dislikes and education, training and employment needs.
● Accommodation where the provider or landlord is approved by the local authority responsible for the care leaver.
Where these three criteria are met, the care leaver is more likely to engage in education, training and employment, have better well-being and achieve the Every Child Matters outcomes.
For young careleavers, research suggests that achieving successful transition to independence involves:
● Choosing when to leave care.
● Being prepared emotionally.
● Being supported by leaving care services, family, friends and mentors.
● Having an income or receiving enough financial assistance.
● Being involved in decisions.
Young care leavers are more likely to achieve independent living if they leave care at a later age, are supported to leave care gradually, and receive good quality support that provides them with stability and focuses on both education and well-being.
Young people who develop a good relationship with their carer(s) are more likely to achieve stable and better quality housing after leaving care. Former carers, whether foster parents, residential carers or kinship carers – including family members and friends – have an important role in continuing to support young people after they have left their care. This role needs to be recognised, formalised and supported.
Care leavers need a range of support services including out-of-hours support, mentoring and positive immediate and extended family contact. They also need practical support with moving and setting up home. Leaving care services are effective in helping most young people find accommodation.
It is important to identify early on those young care leavers who may be at particular risk of poor housing outcomes and offer them intensive, targeted support.
They include young people with emotional, social and behavioural problems; young offenders, including those with a history of violence; young people who abscond from care; young people with disabilities who do not meet the threshold for adult services; and young asylum seekers with mental health problems. There is evidence that leaving-care services for young people with disabilities can be poorly co-ordinated with mainstream leaving-care services.
Other vulnerable care leaver groups whose accommodation and support needs require better services include young parents, young people from ethnic minorities, asylum-seeking young people and vulnerable young people returning from out-of-authority placements.
The young person may re-establish contact with his or her birth family on leaving care. This can be a positive source of practical and emotional support. However, for some, past difficulties can mean that it is harder for them to settle, and they may regress educationally or suffer harm as a result of re-establishing contact.
Housing and children’s services need to identify problems with accommodation early on and to have clear contingency arrangements, including enough emergency accommodation to prevent homelessness and specialist accommodation for young people with higher support needs.
An integrated approach between children’s, housing and adults’ services is essential in preparing young people in care for adulthood. Success in achieving independence depends on good relationships between the leaving care team and the young person, and good communication between the leaving care team and housing providers.
At a strategic level, local authorities must ensure a framework of services and funding streams, underpinned by effective communication, partnership working and joint planning between children’s departments, housing agencies and other services.
● The Centre for Excellence and Outcomes in Children and Young People’s Services (C4EO) identifies and co-ordinates local, regional and national evidence of what works to create a single and comprehensive picture of effective practice in delivering children’s services. It is focusing its work on a number of themes identified in Every Child Matters.
Meeting care leavers’ priority housing needs
Knowsley Council in north west England assesses cases through the housing department’s high-priority panel to ensure that young care leavers are offered suitable and safe accommodation. Support and advice are provided to enable them to become good tenants.
The multi-agency panel assesses the needs of all priority housing groups. For care leavers, the panel includes a representative from the young persons team.
It meets every four weeks, when referrers are invited to present cases for consideration. If approved, the homeless prevention team is asked to identify suitable accommodation, using the nominations procedure.
Since the scheme was launched in October 2008, the panel has assessed 51 young people leaving care (10% of all applications). All were accepted as having priority housing need and have been settled in safe, suitable accommodation. They have all maintained their tenancies, with support from personal advisers. Good relationships have been established with the area housing officers, so that any difficulties are dealt with quickly and pre-emptively.
Care leavers are now prioritised for housing in the area of their choice, which has facilitated a smoother transition from care to independence.
MESSAGES FOR PRACTITIONERS
● Care leavers are more likely to achieve safe, settled accommodation if they have good quality care and are supported to leave care gradually, at a relatively older age.
● Young people need access to good quality leaving care services, out-of-hours support, mentoring, positive immediate and extended family and network contact, and practical support with moving and setting up home in their own accommodation.
● Young people should be included in decisions about their accommodation and continuing support and care needs.
● Effective service provision requires good communication between leaving care services, accommodation providers and carers, and an integrated strategic approach involving children’s, housing and adult services.
● The potential role of former foster parents and residential carers in providing continuing personal and practical support to the care leaver should be recognised and formalised.
● It is important to identify early on young care leavers at risk of poor housing outcomes, and to be able to provide emergency and specialist accommodation where needed.
Title Support for care leavers
Publisher Ofsted, 2009
Abstract This illustrates how effective strategies and services help improve the quality of life for care leavers and assist them to make successful transitions into adulthood and independence. It is a small-scale survey based on visits to six local authorities and four secure provisions. It also draws on evidence from social care inspection and takes account of care leavers’ views and experiences. Services discussed include health, accommodation, education, employment, inclusion and advocacy.
Author National Care Advisory Service
Title A home, not a safety net: briefing on legislative and policy framework on accommodation and care leavers
Publisher National Care Advisory Service
Abstract This briefing provides an overview of the legal framework and government policy relating to care leavers and accommodation, with policy recommendations that would improve the accommodation prospects of care leavers.
Author Goddard Jim; Barrett Sam
Title Guidance, policy and practice and the health needs of young people leaving care
Reference Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law, 30(1), 2008. ISSN paper 0964-9069; ISSN online 1469-9621
Abstract During the past 10 years, there has been growing interest in the health needs of young people leaving care in England and Wales. Most young people leave care between 16 and 18 and many experience significant problems adjusting to independent living. This article presents the legislative and policy content alongside the results of a project undertaken in the north of England in 2005. The project surveyed young care leavers, analysing their health needs and experiences to inform future policy action.
Title Home alone: housing and support for young people leaving care
Publisher Rainer, 2007
Abstract Gaps in local authority planning have resulted in nearly one in six young people leaving care being placed in unsuitable – sometimes unsafe – accommodation, according to young people’s charity Rainer (now known as Catch22). In some of the worst cases vulnerable young people were placed in housing that was physically unsecured and where they were subjected to harassment and discrimination by other tenants and staff. They could find themselves miles away from work or training and effectively cut off from friends and other support. One in three care leavers did not feel safe where they were living.
This article is published in the 7 January 2010 edition of Community Care under the headline “Increasing the number of care leavers in safe, settled housing”