This page is targeted at housing professionals. Our main site is at www.shelter.org.uk

Care leavers aged 21 or over

This content applies to England

This page looks at vulnerability and care leavers.

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]

Looked after, accommodated or fostered

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.

See Care leavers aged 18,19 or 20 for the statutory definitions of 'looked after, accommodated or fostered', and 'relevant student'.

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 on this page 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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