Help and housing for care leavers

If you are a care leaver you may be able to get housing and other help from your local council. The help you get mainly depends on your age.

Help for 16 and 17 year old care leavers

If you have already left care, and had spent a total of at least 13 weeks in care since the age of 14, and part of that time was while you were 16 or 17, you will be able to get help including somewhere to live from your local council. It doesn't matter if that 13 weeks was not all at the same time.

You have different rights if you have spent less than a total of 13 weeks in care, or you want to leave care before your 16th birthday.

Get advice if you are finding it difficult to get help from the council.

Use Shelter's directory to find your local Shelter advice centre or Citizens Advice. Their services are free and confidential. 

Help for care leavers from a personal adviser

Before you leave care you will be given a pathway plan setting out what support you might need to live independently.

You're given a personal adviser whose job it is to make sure that you claim everything you are entitled to and to help you with application forms for housing, benefits, education and/or training courses. They should also help you with learning life skills, like how to budget.

Your personal adviser should stay in contact with you and provide ongoing support and help until you turn 21, or until your 25th birthday if you are still studying full time.

Get advice now if you don't have a personal adviser. You may be able to get one even if you didn't get one while you were still in care.

Use Shelter's directory to find your local advice centre.

Help from the council for care leavers

The council that last looked after you remains responsible for you even if you move to a different area.

The council must continue to give you any help you need, even if you move to another area.

Contact your local council or call Shelter's helpline on 0808 800 4444 if you need emergency housing or support.

Find out more about help for care leavers.

Financial support for 16 or 17 year old care leavers

Most 16 or 17 year old care leavers are not eligible for benefits, so the social services department of your local council must help you by:

  • providing housing or helping you find and keep your own place
  • supporting you financially by paying you enough for your rent, food, bills, travel costs for education and training, clothing, pocket money and childcare if you need it
  • giving you any other support you need, such as help with continuing your education, finding work or dealing with personal problems

In most cases you can only claim benefits if you are a 16 or 17 year-old care leaver and you are also a single parent, or unable to work because of a disability or illness.

Find out more from Turn2Us about benefit rules for care leavers.

Accommodation for young care leavers

Any accommodation the council provides should be suitable for you. You may get a place in a foyer, hostel or a self-contained flat.

It is unlikely, but in some cases you could be offered a place in a children's home/ or foster care.

Get advice immediately if you're placed in bed and breakfast accommodation or any other unsuitable accommodation.

Use Shelter's directory to find your local Shelter advice centre.

Ask your personal adviser to help you if you have problems in your accommodation.

Other support for care leavers aged 18 to 24

As a care leaver you should continue to receive help and advice from the local council until your 21st birthday, or 25th if you are still in education or training. Your personal adviser should still keep in touch and should go over your pathway plan with you to see how you are getting on.

If you need support to continue with your education or find training or employment, social services may be able to help you, for example by helping with the cost of living near your college, training centre or workplace.

Benefits for care leavers over 18

When you turn 18 you will be entitled to benefits. You should be able to claim housing benefit and either income support or jobseeker's allowance if you need to.

Find out more about benefits from Gov.uk.

Single room rate

Normally if you are aged under the age of 35 and you rent from a private landlord, the maximum housing benefit you can get is the same rate you would get for renting a single room in a shared house.

But if you've been in care, this will not apply until you turn 22, and you should be entitled to housing benefit for a flat of your own, even if you have just spent one night in care. There is a maximum amount that you can be paid, which depends on the area you live in.

Priority need

If you are aged 18 to 21 and spent at least one night in care when you were 16 or 17, you will automatically be classed as being in priority need until your 21st birthday. If you are in priority need you may be entitled to emergency housing from the council.

Extra help for moving into a new place

If you are a care leaver and you are moving to a new place, you may be entitled to a budgeting loan to help pay for any rent in advance, moving expenses or household items. Most people who have been on income support or jobseekers allowance for at least 26 weeks can apply. These loans are paid back through deductions from your benefits

For more information on getting money in emergencies, see our page on cash in a crisis.

Help for homeless care leavers

Most young people who have been in care are entitled to help if they become homeless. The help you are entitled to usually depends on your age and personal circumstances.

Care leavers under the age of 18

If you are under the age of 18, the social services department of your local council is responsible for finding you somewhere to live.

18 to 21 year old care leavers

If you are aged 18 to 21, you can get help from both your council's social services and housing departments. You will automatically be classed as being in priority need until your 21st birthday, which means that the housing department should help you find a place to live. Social services can also help you by providing support and help with training and education.

If you are in full-time further or higher education, social services must find you somewhere to live during the holiday periods if you need it.

21 years old and above care leavers

Some older care leavers can get accommodation from the housing department if they can show that they are in priority need. This may be the case if you are vulnerable as a result of having been in care, for example, if you haven't had a stable home since you left care, or you have slept on the streets in the past.

Social services can help you by providing assistance with education and training until your 25th birthday. If you are in full-time further or higher education and you have nowhere to stay outside term time they must also find you somewhere to live.

Help and advice for homeless care leavers

Get advice if you become homeless. An adviser can help you to:

  • check whether social services and/or the housing department should help you
  • tell you what sort of accommodation and support social services normally provide in your area - this will give you an idea of what you can expect
  • make sure you are claiming all the benefits you are entitled to
  • tell you what longer term housing options are available in your area and give you an idea of how much it might cost
  • put you in contact with specialist support organisations or local schemes that can help you raise a deposit or find a suitable place to live

Use Shelter's directory to find an adviser in your local area, or call Shelter's helpline on 0808 800 4444.

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