ACCOMMODATION AND PERSONAL SUPPORT FOR RELEVANT CHILDREN

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1 ACCOMMODATION AND PERSONAL SUPPORT FOR Introduction 7.1 When a young person leaves care he or she will need different forms of ongoing support. The varying forms of support fall broadly in three categories: accommodation; personal; and financial. This Chapter deals with the accommodation and personal support needs of relevant children (i.e. young care leavers aged 16 or 17), while Chapter 8 deals with their financial needs. Duties to care leavers 7.2 Young people leaving care are a diverse group whose needs for accommodation are likely to vary widely. When a young person leaves accommodation provided by an HSS Trust, it may not be possible for him or her to return to live with his or her family. HSS Trusts have a duty to meet the needs of: relevant children the Children Order requires the responsible HSS Trust to support them by providing them with, or maintaining them in, suitable accommodation unless they are satisfied that their welfare does not require it; 1 and former relevant children the HSS Trust is required to assist them to the extent that their welfare requires it. 2 Inter-agency co-operation 7.3 HSS Trusts with specialist leaving and aftercare teams have been successful in developing accommodation resources for young people leaving care. These developments include arrangements for young people to stay on in placements after they cease to be looked after, supported lodgings, trainer flats, floating support schemes, access to foyers and to independent tenancies in both the statutory and private sectors. However, there continue to be shortages of suitable types of accommodation for young care leavers. 1 Article 34C(8)(b) of the Children Order, as inserted by section 2 of the Children (Leaving Care) Act (NI) Article 34D(4)(c) of the Children Order, as inserted by section 2 of the Children (Leaving Care) Act (NI)

2 ACCOMMODATION AND PERSONAL SUPPORT FOR 7.4 Wherever possible, the housing needs of care leavers should be addressed before they leave care. The pathway planning process envisages that HSS Trusts and the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) will undertake joint assessments when planning for the accommodation needs of individual young people, as part of a multi-agency assessment on which an individual pathway plan should be based. The development of suitable accommodation for care leavers will require HSS Trusts to establish formal partnerships with housing providers. It is important, therefore, that the NIHE and HSS Trusts have protocols in place for dealing with care leavers to ensure that housing and social services each fulfils their respective role in meeting the needs of these young people. 7.5 The Children Order recognises the need for inter-agency liaison and Article 46 gives HSS Trusts the right to request help in the discharge of their statutory functions under Part IV of the Order from other bodies, including the NIHE. Any such request must be complied with if it is compatible with the other agency s own statutory and other obligations and does not unduly prejudice the discharge of any of their functions. 3 Support and accommodation for relevant children 7.6 Regulation 10 of the Children (Leaving Care) Regulations (NI) 2005 explains the requirement to provide support for relevant children under Article 34C(8)(c) of the Children Order; defines the meaning of suitable accommodation for the purposes of Article 34C(10) of the Order; and defines higher education and further education for the purposes of Article 35B(5). 7.7 The HSS Trust is required to take account of an eligible or relevant child s need for accommodation when carrying out an assessment of needs under the Children Order. 4 The Schedule to the Children (Leaving Care) Regulations requires the pathway plan to contain details of the accommodation which the young person is to occupy and the financial support to be provided to meet the costs of accommodation Article 46(3) of the Children Order 4 Regulation 6(4)(f) of S.R No. 221

3 ACCOMMODATION AND PERSONAL SUPPORT FOR 7.8 In relation to a relevant child, the accommodation agreed in the pathway plan must be suitable accommodation as defined in the Children (Leaving Care) Regulations. The regulations set out the meaning of suitable accommodation, as accommodation: (a) which so far as reasonably practicable is suitable for the young person in the light of his or her identified needs, including health needs; (b) in respect of which the responsible HSS Trust has satisfied itself as to the character and suitability of the landlord or other provider; and (c) in respect of which the responsible HSS Trust has so far as reasonably practicable taken into account the young person s: (i) wishes and feelings; and (ii) his or her educational, training or employment needs. 7.9 The assessment should, therefore, determine the type of accommodation required, where ideally it should be located and the degree of support needed. The pathway plan will specify the particular accommodation which, as agreed with the young person, most closely matches the assessment requirement and the young person s wishes. As soon as the particular accommodation is identified, the responsible HSS Trust must satisfy Regulation 10(2)(b) of the Children (Leaving Care) Regulations, by carrying out appropriate checks and taking up references of those persons coming into direct contact with the young person as a result of the provision of accommodation Whilst Regulation 10 does not prohibit the use of certain types of accommodation, as a general rule it would not be sensible for 16 and 17 year olds to live independently and to carry the responsibility of sustaining their own tenancy without high levels of appropriate support. Similarly, bed and breakfast accommodation would not be regarded as suitable, although very occasionally its use may be justified as a short-term emergency measure. The development of a multi-agency accommodation strategy should be the means whereby recourse to unsuitable accommodation, such as bed and breakfast provision becomes unnecessary. The strategy should aim to develop provision in such a way as to permit young people to return to more supported accommodation in the event of crisis. 65

4 ACCOMMODATION AND PERSONAL SUPPORT FOR 7.11 Even with the help offered through the personal adviser, it is likely that some young people will not succeed in their early attempts at living independently. The responsible HSS Trust should be prepared to handle this situation and to allow for subsequent attempts at independence. It is good practice for HSS Trusts to enter into agreements on the support arrangements to be provided where other landlords or support providers are involved. Vacation accommodation 7.12 The Children Order 5 provides for any care leaver, irrespective of whether they are a former relevant child, to receive assistance with accommodation during vacations in full-time further or higher education. The HSS Trust must be satisfied that the young person needs accommodation because their term-time accommodation is not available. The assistance may take the form of either providing the young person with suitable accommodation or paying them enough money to secure suitable accommodation. Regulations 6 define the meaning of higher education and further education courses which, in the case of the latter, only includes full-time residential courses The above provisions apply to every vacation and are intended to ensure that the young person is not homeless during that time. An assessment of whether there is likely to be a need for assistance should be undertaken when the young person is making a decision about which course to pursue and when the pathway plan is being reviewed to establish an appropriate package of student support. The requirement to assist, if necessary, with vacation accommodation lasts for as long as the young person continues on the course which has been agreed as part of their pathway plan Article 35B(5) of the Children Order 6 Regulation 10 of S.R No. 221

5 ACCOMMODATION AND PERSONAL SUPPORT FOR Personal support 7.14 In addition to the support required to help young people maintain settled, permanent accommodation, other forms of personal support comparable to that provided by most families should also be available. Typical examples of the way in which support may be delivered include: drop-in centres; out of hours and outreach support; mentoring and befriending schemes; and programmes of life skills training. Specialist support services will be required for some young people. The nature, extent and source of support are matters for agreement and inclusion in the pathway plan Regulation 10 of the Children (Leaving Care) Regulations applies to relevant children. It states that for the purposes of Article 34C(8)(c) of the Children Order, the responsible HSS Trust must provide assistance in order to meet the young person s needs in relation to education, training or employment as provided for in his or her pathway plan. Such assistance may be in cash The intention is not that the HSS Trust should take on all the costs associated with the young person s education, training or employment, but that the Trust stands ready to assist with those expenses which cannot be met through other means. Relevant children will be eligible for Education Maintenance Allowances (where these are payable) in the same way that other young people on low incomes are eligible. 67

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