Care leavers need better provision of accommodation, says Barnados

Care leavers need better provision of accommodation, says Barnados

A report recently published by Barnardos reveals the plight of young people leaving care and suggests that provisions should be made to cover their housing needs to prevent them from being assessed as ‘intentionally homeless’.

On my own: the accommodation needs of young people leaving care in England is a study exploring four major issues young people face after reaching the legal age to leave local authority care (16 – 18 yrs):

  • having a choice in housing
  • finding appropriate and safe accommodation
  • managing to live alone
  • the risk of being made homeless

The Department for Education earlier this year said: “Each young person leaving care should have a pathway plan that sets out the accommodation they will live in after leaving care.”

The research indicates that young people who have access to “good” housing on leaving care tend to lead “better outcomes in other areas of life”. Studies have shown that almost one-third of young people with care backgrounds experience homelessness “at some stage between six and 24 months after leaving care” (Stein 2010).

Using qualitative research studies with young people who had used a range of Barnardos’ services, data was gathered to ascertain what they would consider as “safe and settled accommodation.” Barnardos found that some young people felt a “sense of mistrust” as a result of having “little choice or no information” about where they were going to live after leaving care.

Providing choice about where the young care leaver was going to live came high on the priorities as well as providing habitable and safe accommodation.

The report states that many of the young people who were interviewed were living on their own, in isolating conditions, learning how to manage their household affairs with little or no experience.

In evidence to Barnardos, a young care leaver said: “I hated living on my own. I couldn’t cope at first. I didn’t know how to pay bills. I knew how to cook and clean and stuff, I just didn’t know how to do everything else. I didn’t know how to pay bills or council tax; I didn’t know what the letters meant when they came through the post.”

Barnardos recommend that all local authorities should support all care leavers in order for them to find suitable accommodation as well as offering “ongoing floating support” to care leavers who live alone, helping them to maintain their accommodation and outgoings.

It also recommends that the government’s care leaver strategy, the Department for Education and the Department for Communities and Local Government work together to provide leadership for “better joint working between children’s services and housing departments in local authorities” so that care leavers “do not fall through the gap between services.”