Reading your rights
What rights do young people have if they leave home? Is there any legislation that helps keep them safe?
There is legislation that might help young people if they leave home. How much help a young person gets may depend on their age, where they are, whether they have been in care and why they left home.
The three main pieces of legislation that might help young people are Homeless legislation, The Children Act, and The Children Leaving Care Act.
Under homeless legislation, the council has legal duties to help certain groups of people who have nowhere to live. Applying to the council for this help is called making a homeless application.
You can apply as homeless if you are on the streets or if you have somewhere to live but it isn't suitable, for instance if you are sleeping on a friend's floor, or you are experiencing violence at home. If you were living with your parents or a carer then the council may want to explore the possibility of you going back there, but cannot force you to do so.
When you've made a homeless application, the council will decide whether you are in a priority need category. If you are in priority need then the council normally has to provide you with somewhere to live while it looks at your situation in more detail. Most young people aged 16 and 17 are a priority. There are exceptions; some young people are not entitled to help from the housing department due to immigration status or having been in care. In most cases, someone else may have a responsibility to help.
Making a homeless application can be quite complicated. The housing department may tell you to go to social services or make a decision that you are not homeless. They may also decide that it is your fault you are homeless, this is called being intentionally homeless. If the housing department makes any of these decisions then you may be less likely to get help. If you're finding it difficult to get help, it's important you seek advice immediately.
Under the Children Act, if you are 16 or 17, you may be entitled to help from the social services department of the council. This help should be available if social services decide you are a 'child in need'.
The law doesn't say exactly what help social services should give you and different councils have different rules. It will depend on your personal situation, what is available in your area and how much it costs. You should be given a range of services to help you with any problems you are having. Social services help for young people can include different types of support from practical help in finding a home, to employment advice, to emotional support.
The Children Leaving Care Act means you may get help from social services if you left care on or after 1 October 2001. You should continue to get help until you turn 21, or until you are 24 if you are still studying full time. Housing help for care leavers depends on your age and what help social services provides in your area.
Many young people have problems getting help from the council or are sent from one department to another without getting help. If you need help dealing with the council you can talk to an adviser at your local Citizens Advice Bureau or housing aid centre.
If you are homeless and in an emergency and want to speak to someone before you contact the council then you can phone Shelterline, a free, confidential, national housing advice phoneline, on 0808 800 4444. If you would like to speak to someone about other services for young people in your area, you can call Get Connected, a free, confidential, national phoneline for young people, on 0808 808 4994 between 1pm and 11pm daily.
Question answered by Shelter