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8.2 Protocol for Working with Young People (16/17 year olds) presenting as Homeless Between Children's Services (Leaving Care Team) and Community Housing Services (Homeless Welfare)

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This protocol sets out Bolton Council's response and approach to young people (16/17 year olds) who present as homeless.

It clearly outlines the responsibilities and roles for the two departments involved.

AMENDMENT

This chapter was amended in September 2013 through the updating of Appendix 1 Schemes for Young People, providing information on specific Housing Schemes for young people.


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Council Responsibilities
  3. Bolton's approach
  4. Response to Initial Referral
  5. Role of the Children Services Department
  6. Referral to Time2Talk
  7. Initial Investigations and Screening Assessment
  8. Single Assessment
  9. Role of the 'Housing'/Community Housing Services
  10. Provision of Accommodation under Section (20) Children Act 1989
  11. Young person's wishes and feelings
  12. Range of Services
  13. Emergency Duty Team referrals (EDT)
  14. Arrangement for the assessment of young offenders requiring accommodation
  15. Intentional homelessness
  16. Conclusion

    Appendix 1: Schemes for Young People


1. Introduction

This protocol sets out Bolton Council's corporate response to the identification, assessment and management of the needs of young people aged 16 and 17 who present as homeless.

The protocol has been updated in response to the Statutory Guidance issued in April 2010 to children's services authorities and local housing authorities about their duties under Part 3 of the Children Act 1989 and Part 7 of the Housing Act 1996 to secure or provide accommodation for homeless young people aged 16 and 17 years old.


2. Council Responsibilities

Bolton Council recognises that it has a clear responsibility towards young people who are homeless and wishes to effectively discharge those responsibilities.

The Council has a number of responsibilities under both the Children Act 1989 and under Part 7 of the Housing Act 1996 in circumstances where there are young people aged 16-17 who require accommodation.

Under the Children Act 1989 the responsibilities are:

  • To safeguard and promote the welfare of Children in Need;
  • So far is consistent with the above, to promote the upbringing of such children with their families;
  • To provide accommodation for any Child in Need in their area who is lost or abandoned or has no person with Parental Responsibility for them;
  • To provide accommodation for any Child in Need who has reached 16 and whose welfare the Authority considers is likely to be seriously prejudiced if they do not provide accommodation.

Under the Housing Act 1996 the Authority has a duty to prevent homelessness occurring and where homelessness does occur to assist with securing suitable alternative accommodation as appropriate.

This is subject to an investigation that there is no other accommodation that the person might reasonably occupy; that the person did not make themselves intentionally homeless; and that the person has a 'local connection'.

Even if, for one of the above reasons, the person is not considered a responsibility of the Community Housing Services for rehousing, they are entitled to temporary accommodation pending the investigation and advice and assistance in securing more alternative accommodation.


3. Bolton's Approach

Bolton MBC seeks to apply the above legislation in a way, which recognises that different young people have varying needs requiring graduated responses. Unless there is clear safeguarding evidence to the contrary, it is generally accepted that it is in the best interest of most young people aged 16-17 to live in their family home or to live with responsible adults within their wider family or friend network. The Corporate response to a 16-17 year old seeking assistance due to homelessness should fundamentally recognise the need to work proactively with young people and their families to identify and resolve the issues which have led to the homelessness crisis; and for the young person to return home.

As a first course of action the Council will deal with a young person's immediate need for accommodation. In parallel, the Council will also look at the possibility of a return to the parents' home as the best and most desirable outcome.


4. Response to Initial Referral

All young people aged 16-17 who presents to an agency in Bolton as homeless should be directed to the Children's Services Leaving Care Team in order to ensure a consistent response to young people who may be homeless.


5. Role of the Children Services Department

When a young person presents themselves as homeless to the Children's Services Leaving Care Team, an initial investigation and screening assessment will explore with that young person exactly what they mean by 'homeless' and why they are unable to return to live with their parents, or failing that other family or friends. In some circumstances it will be necessary for emergency temporary accommodation to be accessed for young people whilst these issues are being addressed.

In the majority of situations a return home would be the favoured option and work will be undertaken to try and achieve this within the shortest time possible.

It is the role of Children Services to deal with the immediate needs of the young person and to provide them with longer-term support in areas other than accommodation.

Any young person who is 16 years of age but still at school and who has been an open case to a District Social Work team in the three months immediately preceding the homeless presentation will be referred back to the relevant District Social Work team which will attempt to ensure a return home to parents or extended family or friends. Any young person who is 16/17 years of age and no longer at school will be dealt with by the Children's Services Leaving Care Team.


6. Referral to Time2Talk

The Leaving Care Team will refer the young person to Time2Talk, project which has been commissioned to provide a mediation service for young people at risk of homelessness. The Time2Talk Project will try to engage with parents/carers and the young person in order to effect an improvement in their relationship which either may prevent homelessness or may result in a return home.

In the majority of cases, a young person will not be assessed as being homeless and in need of accommodation unless they have engaged with Time2Talk.


7. Initial Investigation and Screening Assessment

When a young person presents as homeless an initial investigation and screening assessment will be undertaken by the Leaving Care Service to consider whether a duty may owed under S.20 Children Act 1989. The initial investigation and screening assessment will utilise the following 5-point test:

  1. Is the applicant a child?
  2. Are they in need?
  3. Are they a child resident within Bolton?
  4. Does the child require accommodation as a result of meeting the following S.20 criteria.
    1. There being no person with Parental Responsibility;
    2. The child is lost or abandoned; or
    3. The person who has been caring for the child is prevented (whether permanently and for whatever reason) from providing the child with suitable accommodation.
  5. What are the child's wishes and feelings regarding the provision of accommodation under S.20? (The young person should be supported to make an informed decision, taking into account their age and levels of understanding).

The outcome of the initial investigation and screening assessment which will be one of the following:

  • Advice given and no further action;
  • Assessment involving contact with parents/carers, liaison with other agencies; referral to Time2Talk project; referrals to appropriate accommodation projects;
  • Assessment involving contact with parents/carers, liaison with other agencies; referral to Time2Talk project, accommodation under section (20) Children Act 1989, securing of emergency temporary accommodation, referrals to appropriate accommodation projects; provision of ongoing support;
  • Assessment involving contact with parents/carers, liaison with other agencies; referral to Time2Talk project, provision of accommodation under accommodation under section 188 (1) of the 1996 Housing Act (where a young person has made an informed decision that they do not wish to be come Looked After), securing of emergency temporary accommodation, referrals to appropriate accommodation projects; ongoing support for limited period.

Any concerns that arise during the investigation and assessment process about younger siblings in relation to Child Protection will be referred to the relevant District Referral & Assessment team.


8. Single Assessment

The Initial Investigation and Screening Assessment will be conducted and a decision made within one working day as to whether a Single Assessment is to be completed.

Where the Initial Investigation and Screening Assessment identifies that the young person has unmet needs and a decision is made that a Single Assessment is to be completed, The Leaving Care Team Housing Support Worker will commence a Single Assessment which will be conducted in consultation with Homeless Welfare.

Children's Services will conduct and lead the Single Assessment of the young person's needs. The assessment will be completed in accordance with Bolton Council Children's Services Staying Safe Policies & Procedures. The following factors will be considered by Children's Services when assessing 16/17 year olds who may be homeless children in need:

  • Accommodation;
    • Does the child have access to stable accommodation?
    • How far is this suitable to the full range of the child's needs?
  • Family and Social Relationships;
    • Assessment of the child's relationship with their parents and wider family;
    • What is the capacity of the child's family and social network to provide stable and secure accommodation and meet the child's practical, emotional and social needs.
  • Emotional and Behavioural Development;
    • Does the child show self esteem, resilience and confidence?
    • Assessment of their attachments and the quality of their relationships;
    • Does the child show self control and appropriate self awareness?
  • Education, Training and Employment;
    • Information about the child's education experience and background;
    • Assessment as to whether support may be required to enable the child to access education, training or employment.
  • Financial Capability and independent living skills;
    • Assessment of the child's financial competence and how they will secure financial support in future;
    • Information about the support the child might need to develop self-management and independent living skills.
  • Health and Development;
    • Assessment of child's physical, emotional and mental health needs.
  • Identity;
    • Assessment of the child's needs as a result of their ethnicity, preferred language, cultural background, religion or sexual identity.

The purpose of the joint approach to the Single Assessment is to ensure that the needs of young people who are homeless are met and that they receive appropriate priority within the accommodation projects. It is recognised that some young people will present with difficult and chaotic behaviours, and may struggle to be accepted onto any accommodation project. The joint assessment process will highlight these difficulties and help to identify and secure a support package from appropriate agencies in order to help a young person secure and maintain supported accommodation.

The Single Assessment is normally completed within 45 working days, but in these circumstances an appropriate level of detail should be completed within 10 days to identify the young person's needs and the level of support that is required to meet those needs.

This will identify what duty, if any, is owed to the young person. If, following the Single Assessment and the provision of all necessary information to enable the young person to make an informed decision, it appears they have nowhere safe to stay and they require emergency accommodation under Section 20 CA 1989, Children's Services Staying Safe will secure suitable accommodation and, subject to Head of Service and Assistant Director approval, the young person will be regarded as a Looked After Child under Section 20 CA 1989.


9. Role of the 'Housing' / Community Housing Services

The role of the Community Housing Services Homeless Welfare Team is to deal specifically with the young person's accommodation needs, providing assistance to the Leaving Care Team in addressing the early needs of a young person's homeless presentation and to prioritise an application for secure/permanent move-on accommodation where appropriate.

The Leaving Care Team will, in consultation with Homeless Welfare where necessary, make referrals to accommodation at projects such as supported accommodation through BAP (Bolton Accommodation Project), Bolton Young Person's Housing Scheme Supported Accommodation Project or Bolton Accommodation & Support for Employment (BASE) dispersed Foyer. If it is assessed as being appropriate, Homeless Welfare can support the registration and prioritising of a housing application through Homes For You for move-on accommodation.

Young people who do not have a local connection or who in any way do not meet the housing criteria may be referred to Housing Advice Services who will help them look at their housing options.


10. Provision of Accommodation under Section (20) Children Act 1989

When the outcome of the initial investigation and screening assessment has identified that Children's Services has a duty to provide accommodation under section 20 and the young person has accepted the accommodation provided, the young person will not be homeless and no further duty will be owed under Part 7 of the Housing Act 1996.

The young person living in the accommodation provided becomes Looked After under Section 20 Children Act 1989 pending the outcome of the assessment of their needs, including their need for continuing accommodation and support.

In the majority of cases, emergency accommodation will be provided in the beds commissioned specifically by Children's Services from Bolton Young People's Housing Service at Bolton Nightstay. In circumstances where the Children's Services beds at Bolton Nightstay are full, subject to appropriate authorization, an additional bed space can be purchased if one is available or an alternative overnight stay provider can be approached.


11. Young person's wishes and feelings

Section 20(6) of the Children Act requires that, as far as is possible, Children's Services ascertains the wishes and feelings of a young person aged 16 or 17 years who has been assessed as needing to be Accommodated under Section 20 and to take those wishes and feelings into account. In taking the young person's feelings into account, there needs to be an assessment of the young person's emotional and behavioural development and their capacity to manage living independently.

If a young person states that they do not wish to be accommodated, their wishes and feelings should not necessarily be the decisive factor, but need to be weighed against other factors such as their vulnerability, resilience, support networks, their assessed needs and the kind of accommodation it is assessed will be required to meet their assessed needs.

Children's Services and Homeless Welfare staff conducting assessments will ensure that the young person receives clear information about the support that the young person can expect as a Looked After child and as a care leaver and the difference in service and support when compared to not being Looked After. Young people should be able to access the Action for Children Advocacy Service for independent advice if they have any doubts about the correct decision to make. Children's Services and Homeless Welfare staff must ensure that the young person has sufficient information to make a balanced and informed decision.


12. Range of Services

The assessment process will help to identify any unmet needs of a young person. There are a range of services in Bolton for young people that can be approached for support - such as the Early Intervention Team, The Parallel, 360, Youth Offending Team, BLGC mentoring service. Bolton also has a wide provision of accommodation projects that young people can access and other services and processes designed to widen options for young people - these are listed at Appendix 1.

The Leaving Care Team will, if necessary, seek emergency temporary accommodation for a young person and attempt to offer support and advice on other issues. It is recognised that the presenting issue of homelessness will not be the only issue that a young person will need to address. Mediation via the Time2Talk project is a positive tool to work with young people and their families and will be promoted.


13. Emergency Duty Team Referrals (EDT)

There are times outside general office opening hours when young people aged 16 and 17 will present as being homeless. As the Children Act 1989 takes precedence over the Housing Act 1996, Children's Services will remain the lead agency in respect of assessing the needs of children in need aged 16-17 years of age who present out of office hours and request housing provision. All approaches to EDT by young people aged 16 and 17 will therefore be regarded as an initial approach to Children's Services and, following the placement within suitable emergency accommodation, the guidance set out at of this protocol will apply.


14. Arrangements for the assessment of young offenders requiring accommodation

Where a young person appears in the Youth Court and they become subject to conditions which prevent them returning to the family home or they are released from custody with similar restriction in place, the Youth Offending Team (YOT) will follow the steps set out in the initial referral section of this protocol and the CAF process.

When a young person is proposed to be released from custody with conditions in place which will prevent them returning to the family home, the YOT will complete a CAF and a 'Multi-Agency Support Plan' (MASP) to explore all needs, including accommodation, and to determine who, how and when those needs are to be addressed.

Where it appears that the young person is likely to require ongoing specialist support from agencies including Children Services Staying Safe and Community Housing following their release, all appropriate agencies should be invited to attend a review of the MASP immediately prior to release and to agree any post release actions.

Where a young person in custody refuses to provide consent to either a CAF or, referral to Children Services Staying Safe / Community Housing, they should be informed that their needs cannot be assessed until release and they should be signposted to universal support services.


15. Intentional homelessness

In accordance with sections 191 (1) and 196 (1) of the Housing Act 1996, a person becomes intentionally homeless if:

  1. The person deliberately does or fails to do anything in consequence of which the person ceases to occupy accommodation (or the likely result of which is that the person will be forced to leave accommodation);
  2. The accommodation is available for the person's occupation; and
  3. It would have been reasonable for the person to continue to occupy the accommodation.

The broad thrust of section 191 HA 1996 is to ascribe intentional homelessness to a person who, based on the facts, is responsible for his homelessness by virtue of his own act or omission. Whilst it is not part of the purpose of the legislation to require local authorities to house people whose homelessness is brought upon them by their own fault, equally, it is not part of the legislation that authorities should refuse to accommodate people whose homelessness has been brought upon them without fault on their part.

If, after consideration of the above legislative requirements, the Children's Services Leaving Care team and Community Housing Services determine that a young person should be regarded as 'intentionally homeless', they should inform the young person and Children's Services of this determination in writing.

If a young person has exhausted the range of accommodation options provided and available within Bolton or accessible from Bolton as a result (for example) of challenging behaviour, threats to other residents or staff members, violence and aggression, use of drugs and alcohol within accommodation premises where these substances are prohibited, repeated theft from other residents, etcetera, and where they have not responded to reasonable requests to moderate their behaviour and have been banned or excluded by all providers, the young person may be deemed to have made themselves intentionally homeless. In these kinds of circumstances, the young person may have to be supported under section 17.


16. Conclusion

Homelessness can have a destabilising effect on a young person's life and opportunities. There is a commitment from Children Services and Community Housing to ensure that young people presenting as homeless are met with a service that will meet their needs, both accommodation and welfare. It is recognised that a young person's needs cannot be met by the Council in isolation and therefore referrals, liaison and joint working with young people's services across Bolton will be a significant part of the assessment process and service offered.


Appendix 1: Schemes for Young People

Housing Provision specifically for young people from 01 April 2013:

Bolton Young Persons Housing Scheme will provide the following projects:

  • Individual and Shared Tenancies with outreach support;
  • Project Front Door – tenancies within one building with on site support and security;
  • Supported Lodgings – within households;
  • Nightstay – emergency/temporary accommodation.

Other schemes that provide accommodation services including young people

  • Sarah Lodge (Great Places Housing Association);
  • Fleet House (Irwell Valley Housing Association); 
  • Chorley Old Road (Stoneham);
  • Gilead House (Stoneham).

Most of the projects listed above provide resettlement and move-on support.

Other services and young people processes

  • Time2Talk – Bolton Mediation Service intervention to prevent homelessness and / or improve familial relationships & support;
  • Homes For Bolton – the local authorities choice based lettings scheme for housing incorporating Bolton Community Homes partnership;
  • Bolton At Home use of equitable tenancies to enable the allocation and sign-up of minors where appropriate;
  • Tenancy Sustainment Officer (Bolton At Home) – interventions to tackle and reduce anti social behaviour, help sustain tenancies, prevent homelessness in particular working with those with identifiable vulnerabilities.

End