16 and 17 year old young people at risk of homelessness
6. Referral and notification
When approached by a 16- or 17-year-old who is homeless, Housing Services should treat the approach as a homelessness application under Part VII of the Housing Act. This means that if they have reason to believe the young person may be homeless or at risk of homelessness, they must investigate to ascertain whether they owe any duties to the young person. If they establish that the young person is faced with homelessness and eligible for housing assistance (which is based on nationality/immigration status), they will owe them either a prevention duty (when the young person is at risk of homelessness) or a relief duty (when they are homeless). They should also provide the young person with emergency accommodation when needed.
Housing will be the lead professional on any assessments for these young people and take responsibility for liaising with Children’s Services for the joint assessment including the timescale for completion and communication.
Where a young person presents to Homeless Services, they should be referred on to Buckinghamshire Children’s Services for an assessment immediately and the outcome needs to be communicated to the housing service within 72 hours of the referral.
Should the child present to Children’s Services, Children’s Services have a duty to provide accommodation whilst the joint assessment is completed. Children’s Services will be the lead professional on any assessments for these young people and take responsibility for liaising with Housing for the joint assessment including the timescale for completion and communication.
6.1 Referring agencies
Agencies that are likely to refer young people for help because of homelessness include schools, colleges and the Youth Service.
Workers may be approached by young people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness including young people who are considering leaving the family home.
Initial work with the young person could explore:
- Their individual circumstances
- Where they are currently living
- Whether they are able to remain or return home and whether they will need services to support this, for example through mediation
- Whether there are other family members who can look after the young person
- If they have a current support worker or social worker
- Whether there are any safeguarding risks or concern
6.2 Criteria for referral
Workers should make a referral to Buckinghamshire Children’s Services where:
- the young person has already left or been excluded from the family home
- the home environment is not safe for the young person and places them at risk of harm
- the young person’s behaviour is causing them or others to be at risk and parents are unable to manage this behaviour
- the young person is particularly vulnerable to poor outcomes if they remain at home
- the young person and their family will require services and support from Buckinghamshire Children’s Services to enable them to remain at home or go to live with another family member
6.3 Making referrals to Buckinghamshire Children’s Services
All referrals to Buckinghamshire Children’s Services must be made to the MASH (Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub) by way of the MARF (Multi-Agency Referral Form) referral record. Young people may also refer themselves by contacting the Service. The MASH manager will make a decision on the referral within 24 hours and referrers will be notified of the outcome.
- Cases where there is no imminent threat of homelessness and the young person is likely to remain living at home may be referred to the Early Help Service or support services and a mediation service, including a Family Group Conference.
- Cases where the young person is homeless or at risk of homelessness because of conflict with their parents will be referred to Buckinghamshire Children’s Services for assessment and mediation, including a Family Group Conference.
- Homeless Services have a duty to refer any young person aged 16 or 17 who presents as homeless or threatened with homelessness on to Buckinghamshire Children’s Services immediately for assessment and a decision on whether a duty is owed under section 20 of the Children Act 1989. Housing workers should contact the MASH to discuss the case in the first instance and make a referral by MARF. MASH Referral
- Buckinghamshire Children’s Services has a duty to notify Homeless Services of any young person aged 16 or 17 who will receive a service from Buckinghamshire Children’s Services because they are homeless or at risk of homelessness. This is to ensure a joint response and integrated service delivery from both services. This should be done using the statutory Duty to Refer form/process and including a copy of the Child in Need assessment if the young person agrees.
Refer to list below for referral forms to each of the former District legacy areas:
Aylesbury Area: Online self referral form: https://hpa2.org/refer/AVDC
Chiltern Area: Online self referral form: https://hpa2.org/refer/CDC
South Bucks Area: Online self referral form: https://hpa2.org/refer/SBDC
Wycombe Area: Online self referral form: https://hpa2.org/refer/WYC
- Before sending the notification, the social worker must obtain the young person’s consent as well as their consent to sharing the young person’s contact details with Homeless Services.
- Notifications to Homeless Services should include a summary of any assessment of the young person’s situation and what services and support Buckinghamshire Children’s Services will provide.
6.4 Roles and Responsibilities of Children’s and Housing Services
Young people are entitled to the support of an independent advocate to help them navigate this process.
When a 16- and 17-year-old presents as homeless to their local authority, they must receive a child in need assessment (also known as a section 17 assessment) carried out by Children’s Services – even if they first approached Housing Services.
Local authorities have a duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children in need in their area (section 17 of the Children Act).
Under sections 20(1), 20(3) and 20(4) of the Children Act, local authorities have to provide accommodation for children in need in their area, who need accommodation.