Housing and social care

Under the UNCRC all children have a right to an adequate standard of living, including housing, and the right to special protection and help if they can’t live with their family and go into care.

Our work in this area focuses on making sure that care experienced children and young people are properly supported by statutory services if they are at risk of homelessness.

We have two key priorities in this area which have been informed by Just for Kids Law's direct practice:

1. Homeless 16- and 17-year olds

Every year, thousands of children aged 16 and 17 approach their local authority for support as they are facing homelessness, but many are sent away and others are unlawfully housed under legislation that does not give them the full support they are entitled to. The legal status and support that children receive at this age can have life-long consequences.

The reason we are focusing on this age group, in particular, is because 16 and 17 year-olds tell us they are often treated like adults by the services that are meant to support them – despite the fact that they are legally still children and are entitled to a greater level of support than someone aged 18+.

We are working with local authorities in London and central government to improve the support which is provided to homeless young people aged 16 and 17, and in particular, to ensure that all children in this age group have the opportunity to become ‘looked after’ by their local authority if this is what they want.

In June 2020, we published a report Not in Care, Not Counted -  A legal loophole: homeless 16- and 17-year olds and unregulated accommodation which estimates that around 2,500 children of this age are housed by their local authority each year without becoming ‘looked after’ meaning they are not legally entitled to any other support except being given somewhere to live and may be left to fend for themselves when they turn 18.

The report also highlights that 1 in 5 children living in ‘unregulated’ semi-independent or independent settings – including supported living, hostels and foyers – is not ‘looked after’. We responded to the government consultation on unregulated accommodation to highlight this issue in April 2020 [link to consultation response].

We are also part of the steering group of the Keep caring for children up to 18 campaign which is calling on the Government to ensure that children in unregulated accommodation receive care until age 18, rather than just ‘support’ as is the Government’s current policy.

2. Increasing support for care leavers facing homelessness

Young people aged 18+ who have experience of the care system (‘care leavers’) face an increased risk of being made homeless compared to other young people, particularly as they may not be able to fall back on family members if they need somewhere to live. One in four homeless people were in care at some point in their lives (NAO, 2015).

We are campaigning for the Government to expand the support it gives to homeless care leavers. In particular, we want the law to be changed to that all care leavers aged up to 25 are classed as ‘priority need’ for emergency housing if they become homeless, meaning that their local authority must house them. At the moment, this only applies to care leavers aged 18-21.

In partnership with a group of leading charities working with care leavers and on homelessness, we sent a letter [link to letter] to the Education Secretary asking him to make this change to the law as part of a new cross-government board on care leavers.

We also want care leavers to stop being classed as ‘intentionally homeless’ – meaning they have lost or refused accommodation that the local authority deems to be suitable, sometimes for reasons such as accruing rent arrears. We believe that care leavers should receive support from their local authority to maintain their accommodation, including if they are facing financial difficulty, rather than being classed as intentionally homeless which will prevent them from being able to access support in future if they become homeless again.