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Priority need of homeless care leavers aged 21 or over

This content applies to England

Vulnerability and priority need of homeless applicants who are care leavers aged 21 or over.

Looked after, accommodated or fostered

Persons aged 21 or over may be in priority need if they are vulnerable as a result of having been looked after, accommodated or fostered by the local authority at any time.[1]

The local authority must assess this possible ground for finding a person is in priority need regardless of how long ago the person was in care.

Once a care leaver is 21, social services is not normally responsible for providing them with accommodation. However, where a care leaver meets the definition of relevant student, they are entitled to advice and assistance from social services, including assistance with accommodation during vacations.

A relevant student is a care leaver under the age of 24, who qualifies for advice and assistance (or would have done so if they were under 21) because they were formerly looked after by a local authority, and who is in full-time higher education or residential further education. When term-time accommodation is not available to a relevant student during the holidays, housing these students remains the responsibility of social services.

Determining vulnerability for care leavers 21 or over

The Homelessness Code of Guidance states that local authorities will need to inquire into an applicant's childhood history in order to establish whether they are vulnerable as a result of having been looked after, accommodated or fostered.[2] It may be important to know under which section of the Children Act the applicant accommodated as a child – for more information see 16 and 17 year olds.

The Code states that the housing authority may wish to consider the following factors when deciding whether the applicant is vulnerable, although additional factors may be relevant:[3]

  • how long the applicant was in care
  • why the applicant was in care
  • the time that has lapsed since the applicant was in care and whether the applicant has been able to obtain and maintain accommodation during that period
  • whether the applicant has any existing support networks, such as family, friends, or a mentor

Applications made before 3 April 2018

The current Homelessness Code of Guidance was introduced on 3 April 2018 and the references here are to this Code. For applications made before this date, the recommendations of the 2006 Code of Guidance should apply.

[1] art.4 Homelessness (Priority Need for Accommodation) (England) Order 2002 SI 2002/2051; para 8.28 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[2] para 8.30 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[3] paras 22.22 and 22.23 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

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