16 and 17 year old young people at risk of homelessness

Last updated: 1 November 2021 Download the protocol (pdf, 600.7 KB)

8. Buckinghamshire Children’s Services Assessment

All 16- and 17-year-olds presenting as homeless or at risk of homeless will be jointly assessed by Buckinghamshire Children’s Services and Housing to establish the young person’s needs and their eligibility for services including whether they meet the threshold to be provided with accommodation.

Buckinghamshire Children’s Services will carry out a child and family assessment for 16- and 17-year-old young people presenting as homeless or at risk of homelessness in order to:

  • establish whether the young person meets the eligibility criteria for a service as a child in need and whether they need to be accommodated under section 20 as set out in section 5.
  • identify their specific developmental needs and what support they will need to achieve good outcomes now and support needed for a successful transition to adulthood.
  • make a recommendation on the most appropriate services and interventions to meet their needs.

Cases will be allocated to a Buckinghamshire Children’s Services social worker and the assessment will completed within a maximum of 45 working days. Buckinghamshire Council’s aim is for the assessment to be completed where possible within 10 working days as this will be the key factor in determining what accommodation and support (if any) needs to be provided and by what services. The longer the assessment takes, the greater the risk to child in the interim if they are in unsuitable accommodation and not getting the support they need.

Social workers should consider the factors listed in Appendix 2 when deciding whether the young person is a child in need. This decision will be based on the professional judgement of the assessing social worker taking into account each young person’s unique circumstances.

The assessment will be multi-agency and include contributions from all agencies working with the young person and their family.

As part of the assessment process, social workers should visit the family home and interview family members to assess the quality of family relationships and whether it is safe for the young person to remain living there. Social workers should also look at potential alternative accommodation within the family and friend’s network.

If the young person is already living away from the family home, social workers should visit the accommodation to establish if it is safe, suitable and meets the young person’s short-term needs.

The views of young people, and parents/carers, on the young person being accommodated should be taken into account when recommending services and interventions to be provided under the Children Act.

If a young person who is already known to Buckinghamshire Children’s Services presents as homeless or at risk of homelessness, their allocated social worker will carry out an updated child and family assessment and refer the case to the Resource Panel for funding agreement and Legal Planning and New Admissions Panel.

8.1 The outcome of the child in need assessment for a homeless 16- and 17-year-old may conclude:

  • The young person is a child in need and entitled to accommodation under section 20 of the Children Act. If this happens and they are accommodated for a period of more than 24 hours, they become a looked-after child.
  • The young person is not a child in need and therefore should be provided with accommodation by Housing Services under Part VII of the Housing Act 1996 as a ‘priority need’ category. The young person will not be looked after.
  • The young person is a child in need but is not entitled to accommodation under section 20 - this would happen when the young person is able to return to their family’s care with the local authorities providing support services to their family.

Please refer to Appendix 3 for a table of entitlements under each route.

8.2 Accommodation options

Types of accommodation where young people can be housed.

The type of accommodation will depend on the route the young person decides to take. If they want to be accommodated by housing services, they are likely to be placed in supported accommodation. If they want to be accommodated by Children’s Services, the type of placement will depend on the assessment of the young person’s needs conducted by the social worker.

Residential children’s homes

A placement in a children’s home is an option for a 16 or 17-year-old who becomes looked after, although this is not common. Children’s homes are regulated by Ofsted and provide a higher level of care than supported accommodation. Young people can only be placed in this form of accommodation by Children’s Services.

Foster care

For 16- and 17-year-olds who become looked after, foster care should be discussed as one of the options where they can be housed.

Semi-independent or independent placements or supported accommodation

These are the most common destinations for young people aged 16 or 17 and include supported living, hostels, and foyers. These settings are not regulated, meaning that they do not have to meet minimum standards set in law and are not inspected by Ofsted. The support available to the young person varies according to the setting and it is essential that young people are placed in a setting which provides an appropriate level of support for their needs. Both Housing and Children’s Services can place young people aged 16-17 into these types of placements. Local authorities may commission out provision of supported accommodation to private or voluntary sector organisations.

8.3 Types of accommodation where young people cannot be housed:

  • B&Bs: The joint guidance clearly states that B&Bs, including hotels and nightly let accommodation with shared facilities, are not considered suitable for any 16- or 17-year-old.
  • Temporary accommodation: The joint guidance states that it is not usually appropriate to house a 16- and 17-year-old in temporary accommodation without on-site support.
  • All-ages night shelter: 16- and 17-year-olds must not be placed in all-ages night shelter, even in an emergency.

8.4 In an emergency, the joint guidance states that the following types of accommodation are appropriate until more suitable emergency accommodation can be secured for the duration of the assessment:

  • Night stop type or short-term supported lodgings in the homes of trained and vetted hosts.
  • Emergency beds in specialist young peoples’ supported accommodation services.
  • Other specifically designed crash pad services with on-site support.
  • For looked-after children, emergency foster placements.