Young people and care leavers housing options

Temporary and permanent housing options for young people and the financial help allowing them to access and pay for accommodation.

This content applies to England

Housing issues for young people

It can be difficult for young people to find somewhere to live. Private landlords can be reluctant to let to younger people, especially if they are claiming welfare benefits. Young people might have low incomes and a lack of resources, which can make it difficult to access and pay for private rented accommodation. There are also specific legal issues about tenancies for young people under the age of 18.

In some areas, there are specialist agencies that can help young people find accommodation.

There is good practice guidance for local authorities in how to to meet the accommodation needs of care leavers.

Social housing for young people

A young person can apply to any local council for a council home. Councils are no longer required to keep a housing register,[1] but in practice most still do so. It is not lawful for councils to have blanket policies, such as one that would exclude all young people aged 16 or 17, or all people not resident in the area, from an allocations scheme. Statute defines who is not a qualifying person for an allocation.[2]

Young people can also apply for housing through a local registered social landlord.

Most housing associations and other registered social landlords require nominations from the council's list, but many accept direct approaches.

Private rented housing for young people

For many young people, the private rented sector is their first step to independent housing, and private renting can offer easily accessible accommodation. However, financial barriers can make it difficult to find and keep private rented housing, particularly for young people who claim benefits.

A popular choice for young people is to rent a room in a shared house, a house in multiple occupation.

Supported housing for young people

There are different types of specialist supported accommodation for young people.

Supported housing usually provides accommodation for young people who need a certain level of support to help them make the transition to independent living. There are also schemes for young people with specific support needs. There are cluster schemes, which comprise a number of self-contained flats with a support worker available, and group houses where residents have their own bedrooms and share other facilities. Such schemes are often run by housing associations. Foyers and some hostels are a form of supported housing.

The provision of schemes varies from one area to another.

Foyers

Foyers provide accommodation linked to training and employment. They usually have an age limit of 25, and most require a referral, usually from the local housing authority.

Foyers require residents to sign an agreement covering all aspects of their residence, including a commitment to remain involved in training and/or employment during the length of their stay. They offer professional and peer group support for residents. The length of stay is normally up to two years. Foyers are not suitable for young people with multiple or high support needs.

Young people and their advisers should contact their local Foyer or local housing authority and enquire about the correct referral process to follow in each case.

The Foyer Federation itself does not own any housing and cannot provide accommodation or make a referral.

Hostels

Hostels are usually run by social landlords or charities and can often offer emergency accommodation.

There are a number of direct access and emergency hostels specifically for young people. There are hostels that offer accommodation to young people who need support with independent-living skills. There are also hostels that are specifically for young people who are leaving care, most of which require social services referrals. Many mixed-age hostels do not take young people under the age of 18.

Lodging schemes for young people

Lodging schemes operate a register of people who rent out a room in their home. Local authorities or voluntary agencies may manage schemes.

It is usually difficult for ex-offenders, people with drug or alcohol problems, or people with mental health problems to get accommodation through a lodging scheme. Many schemes also find it difficult to place young people aged 16 and 17. Low-level support may be provided on some schemes.

Nightstop

There are over 30 nightstop schemes in the UK. Nightstop schemes provide accommodation in the homes of volunteer hosts for young people aged 16 to 25 for up to three nights. This emergency provision may give the referring agency the opportunity to find suitable long-term accommodation, or can provide time and space to enable families to resolve their difficulties if that is the reason the young person left home.

Generally, nightstops cannot accommodate people with serious psychiatric problems, those who may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol when referred, or those who have a serious criminal record or a recent history of violence, arson or sexual offences. Also, due to the nature of the provision, nightstops are unable to provide accommodation for young people on bail.

More information is available from Nightstop UK.

Paying for accommodation with housing benefit and universal credit

Housing benefit is a means-tested benefit paid to help with the cost of renting accommodation.

Universal credit is a means-tested benefit that is being rolled-out and will replace a number of pre-existing benefits, including housing benefit. It includes a housing costs element to help pay the rent (or mortgage interest payments).

Age restrictions

There is no age limit for claiming housing benefit.

Normally, a claimant must be aged 18 or over to claim universal credit – there are limited exceptions.[3]

There are significant restrictions for young people claiming either benefit on the amount they can get to help pay the rent.

For most claimants who are single and under the age of 35 and renting from a private landlord, the maximum amount of housing benefit or the housing costs element of universal credit payable is restricted to the:

Young people affected by restrictions can apply for a discretionary housing payment from the local authority to help meet a shortfall from their rent. There is no legal entitlement to this payment.

Care leavers and young people in care

Young people under 18 years old who have left care and are 'relevant children' under the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000 cannot usually claim housing benefit or universal credit.  Social services have a duty to pay for and/or provide them with accommodation.

Young people who have been accommodated under section 20 are exempt from the single room rent or shared accommodation rate restrictions until they reach the age of 22.

Students

Most full-time students cannot claim housing benefit or the housing costs element of universal credit.

There are exceptions, which are not exactly the same for both benefits but both include students who has a dependent child or is a foster parent.

Help with rent in advance

The discretionary Social Fund was abolished in 2013, and community care grants and crisis loans were replaced by a system of locally administered assistance. However, budgeting loans and budgeting advances are available.

Locally administered assistance

Under the system of locally administered assistance, each local authority devises its own scheme for helping meet hardship that cannot be met from regular income. Applications for assistance is made to the local authority.

There is no statutory requirement on a local authority to provide a scheme for locally administered assistance.

Budgeting loans and advances

A budgeting loan or budgeting advance (for claimants on universal credit) is an interest-free loan to help claimants spread the cost of items that they cannot afford on their current income.[4] A claimant must have been claiming specified benefits for at least 26 weeks. Loans and advances are repaid by deductions from the claimant's benefit.

Budgeting loans could be awarded for:

  • rent in advance

  • removal expenses for fresh accommodation

  • furniture and household equipment

Claimants should contact their local Jobcentre Plus to apply. More information on budgeting loans and how to apply is available from Gov.uk – budgeting loans.

Children Act payments

Social services has duties and powers under the Children Act 1989 to help children in need and care leavers to pay for accommodation.

16 or 17 year olds

Payment can be made under section 17 of the Children Act to help a child in need to secure accommodation in the private sector by paying a deposit and rent in advance, or to enable them to meet any rent shortfall after housing benefit.

Care leavers

Social services has duties and powers to provide financial support to care leavers up to the age of 21. This can continue until the young person is 25 if they are pursuing education or training.

Rent deposit and guarantee schemes

Young people trying to find accommodation in the private rented sector can find it difficult to raise the money they need for a deposit. In some areas there are there are rent deposit and guarantee schemes that can help.

These schemes operate according to different models. Some pay a deposit in cash to the landlord. Others may provide a 'bond' to the landlord, which means that the scheme will recompense the landlord, up to an agreed limit, if landlord suffers loss due to property damage or non-payment of rent. When a local authority is involved, the scheme may ensure that housing benefit claims are fast tracked.

Some schemes have a list of approved landlords who can offer accommodation. In other areas, young people have to find a landlord themselves. Schemes have different eligibility criteria, for example some have age restrictions and others may only accept people who claim benefits or have a low income.

Discretionary housing payments

A local authority can award a discretionary housing payment for a rent deposit (or rent in advance) for a property that a young person has not yet moved into but only if they are already entitled to housing benefit or the housing costs element of universal credit for their present home.[5]

Last updated: 11 March 2021

Footnotes

  • [1]

    s.14 Homelessness Act 2002

  • [2]

    s.160A Housing Act 1996, as amended by Homelessness Act 2002

  • [3]

    reg 8 Universal Credit Regulations 2013 SI 2013/376.

  • [4]

    Budgeting Loan Guide, DWP, May 2013; regs 11-18 Social Security (Payments on Account of Benefit) Regulations 2013 SI 2013/383.

  • [5]

    paras 2.3-2.15, Discretionary Housing Payments Guidance Manual, DWP, March 2018.