Homeless 16 and 17 Year Olds


This chapter links to statutory guidance:

1. Introduction

Being homeless can pose serious risks to young people. A protocol has been produced that forms an agreement between Cambridgeshire County Council Children's Services, Cambridge City Council, East Cambridgeshire District Council, Fenland District Council, Huntingdonshire District Council and South Cambridgeshire District Council.

The Protocol aims to ensure that by working together, agencies will prevent homelessness wherever possible and quickly resolve the homelessness of specific young people and care leavers.

The Joint Housing Protocol has been developed in accordance with legislation and guidance which require Housing and Social Care partners to work together. It outlines their joint responsibilities in relation to the assessment of need and provision of accommodation services to homeless 16/17 year olds and care leavers aged 16-25.

Click here to view the Protocol for the Assessment of Homeless 16/17 Year Olds and Care Leavers.

2. Young People Under 16 Years Old

All young people under the age of 16 years who are not 'looked after' are the primary responsibility of their parents, unless and until an assessment concludes that intervention is required. If a homeless young person under 16 approaches any of the other signatories to the protocol, CCC Children's Services should immediately be contacted so that an assessment of need can be undertaken.

This is in line with the statutory 'duty to refer' which identifies a person as homeless if:

  • They do not have any accommodation which is available for them which they have a legal right to occupy; or
  • It is not reasonable for the person to occupy their current accommodation, for example, because they would be at risk of domestic abuse.

3. 'Children Looked After' Aged 16/17

This refers to young people who are eligible and/or relevant care leavers under the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000.

All of Cambridgeshire's care leavers aged 16 to 25 are supported by an allocated social worker or Personal Adviser within Children's Services. This would be within a Looked After Children / Disability Team or the 14-25 Service. Some young people with particular needs will also be open to Adult Social Care post 18.

An application for housing must be made once the young person has reached the age of 17½ through registering with Home Link if they are expected to have a housing need post 18 years.

Children's Services and Housing will work together to make arrangements for the young person to be offered the most appropriate housing and ongoing support.

4. Homeless Young People Aged 16/17 Years Old and those at risk of Homelessness

Supporting families to stay together and re-unification

It is in the best interests of most young people aged 16 or 17 to live in the family home, or, where this is not safe or appropriate, with responsible adults in their wider family and friends network. The Children's Services response to 16 and 17 year olds seeking help because of homelessness should explicitly recognise this and work proactively with young people and their families to identify and resolve the issues which have led to their potential homelessness.

Emergency Accommodation

The service that the young person first approaches (Housing or Children's Services) must make initial enquires regarding the young person's circumstances and, where it is evident that the young person cannot return home, it is that service which is responsible for securing emergency accommodation. Where the request is to the County Council, including where a young person is already being supported by a District Early Help Team, they should be referred to the Customer Service Centre who will pass the matter to either MASH or the local Assessment Team for a 'threshold decision' regarding their eligibility for support. If eligible, they would be allocated a social work service and, where already involved, the District Early Help Team would continue to assist in trying to resolve the family breakdown to prevent the young person needing to leave home.

Note: The use of Bed and Breakfast is not considered 'suitable accommodation' other than in exceptional circumstances. Therefore Cambridgeshire County Council must work closely with District Housing partners to avoid this wherever possible.

Where it appears to be the only option, the social worker must obtain the agreement of the Head of Service, outlining the steps taken and why alternatives are not currently available.

If agreement is obtained:

  • The placement should normally be limited to two working days;
  • The social worker must ensure there is appropriate support and daily contact with the young person.