Recent findings from the UK’s largest children’s charity, Barnardo's, found the biggest fear among young care leavers is homelessness.
For those young people looked after in care, the transition to independent living can be a daunting prospect. Whereas many young people have the support of parents or family, those looked after in care can end up facing this prospect alone. Young care leavers often experience difficulties finding accommodation that meets their practical and emotional needs. They can end up in unsafe or insecure accommodation such as rundown flats or unsuitable shared housing. This can lead to debt, worry and loneliness with many struggling to cope with basic life skills such as paying the bills. They face the risk of eviction, sofa surfing or even sleeping rough.
A recent change in the law means young people can now stay in supportive foster homes until they are 21 rather than 18, when perhaps they feel more ready to leave and able to fend for themselves. However, they are still faced with problems which make it increasingly difficult for young care leavers to find and stay in suitable housing. For example, cuts to Local Housing Allowance rates and a lack of one bedroom properties meaning they suffer due to the bedroom tax rules.
Barnardo's is calling for local authorities to strengthen the partnerships between their children's services and housing departments to provide a better framework of support for care leavers. They want authorities to work together with voluntary organisations to provide better accommodation, more support, advice and help to these vulnerable young people when they need it most.
For those young people who find themselves struggling to keep up with rent payments and facing eviction, or with nowhere to go and facing the prospect of homelessness, Stephensons have a very experienced housing law and community care department who are always happy to listen and to help.
By Leanne Jolly, Graduate paralegal in the housing law team