When are you considered a Care Leaver?
You are considered a Care Leaver if you are aged 18-21, and:
- you were in care on or before your 16th birthday and;
- you were in care for at least 13 weeks before your 14th birthday and;
- you were in care at some point whilst you were 16 or 17 years old
If you are unsure if you are a care leaver, you can visit Coram Voice Am I a Care Leaver? and answer a series of questions to check if you may be a Care Leaver, former relevant child or qualifying child.
You can also find lots of information and help through the Devon County Council's Stand Up Speak Out (SUSO) website, including a Care Leavers Guide that you can download or print.
If you are not a care leaver or you are a care leaver over the age of 21 you can still get help with your housing situation from a local housing authority. If you are homeless or threatened with homelessness you can find information at Homeless or threatened with homelessness?
Streetwise is a housing related specialist advisory and support service for young people in Torridge. The service, which is primarily for people aged 16 and 17 and care leavers, provides free confidential advice and support to help resolve any housing problems.
If you are homeless, worried about where you are living or concerned that you may become homeless you should contact the Streetwise Project as soon as you can. You can telephone 07970 200033 or self refer by registering on Housing Jigsaw's self referral portal.
Any accommodation that Devon County Council provides for you should be suitable for your needs, and you should talk to your Personal Advisor (PA) if you have any problems with your accommodation.
When you are aged over 16, and feel ready, you should start to talk to your PA about your longer term housing options .The options available to you will depend on your circumstances, but may include:
Staying where you are
You should tell your PA if you do not feel ready to move out on your own yet, as there may be an option for you to stay with your foster carers. This will be dependent on you and your carers wanting the placement to continue. If you are working and earning more than £100 per week you will have to pay 30% of your earnings to your carer as 'rent'. This is to help you to learn how to manage your money and budget when you leave the staying put arrangement.
You can access more information and advice through Stand Up Speak Out staying put guide
You will have a room or a small flat within a larger building, and there will be staff on site to offer you support as and when you need it. You will be expected to engage with support. Some supported accommodation is specifically for younger people. You will be charged rent and service charges and/or bills, but can claim benefits to meet the cost and will be helped to claim benefits. You will be expected to maintain your own placement with some support. When you, the staff and your Personal Advisor (PA) feel that you are ready for independent living you will be helped to move on.
Your PA or an advisor from the Streetwise Project can talk to you about what supported accommodation is available locally and can refer you to supported accommodation.
When you become 18 you can go back to live with your parents or other family if you choose to and if they agree. If you are considering returning home you should talk to your Personal Advisor (PA) about your thoughts and decisions to make sure you will be safe.
Your benefits or your family's benefits may be affected if you return home and so it is best to get advice if you and your family are considering this option. You will not normally be eligible for Housing Benefit or the housing element of Universal Credit if you live with family and any payment for board would need to come out of your own income even if you are not in employment.
Private Rented Housing
A house share is where you rent a room in a house or flat, sharing with other tenants or a resident landlord. You can also consider renting a flat on your own, but may find the rent and all the bills too expensive to manage on your own.
Properties or rooms that are available for rent are advertised in a range of ways, including through letting agents and websites, small ads in local newspapers, social media and word of mouth.
Usually a landlord or letting agent will ask for at least one month's rent in advance and a deposit. Your Personal Advisor (PA) may be able to help you with these costs. Many landlords and letting agents also ask for references.
There are different types of tenancies, but unless your landlord will be living in the same property as you it is likely that you will be offered an assured shorthold tenancy and this will usually have a fixed term of 6 months. Properties may be let furnished or unfurnished, and you will need to think about what furniture you may need if your secure accommodation that is unfurnished. Your PA may be able to help you with some items for your home.
If you wish to rent privately you will need to think about how you will be able to afford the rent. As a care leaver, you will be exempt from the shared room rate of the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) until you turn 22, so if you are on a low income and you need to claim housing benefit or the housing element of universal credit to pay your rent you will be able to receive the one bed LHA rate. However, you will need to think about how you will be able to afford your rent after you turn 22, as the exemption from the shared room LHA rate comes to an end when you reach this age.
When you rent privately you may need a guarantor. A guarantor is someone who vouches for you legally and agrees to be responsible for your rental costs if you fail to make payments. If you need a guarantor Social Services can undertake an assessment to see if you can cope both financially, emotionally and be responsible for your own accommodation. If the assessment advises that you are ready and able Devon County Council may, as your corporate parent, act as guarantor. Alternatively a friend or family member may agree to act as a guarantor.
Social housing is housing that is provided by a council or housing association. The rent for social housing is generally lower than privately rented housing, and tenancies tend to be more secure, so demand for social housing is high. Your Personal Advisor (PA) can support you in making an application for social housing through Devon Home Choice.
A social landlord will only consider offering you a tenancy if they are certain that you are ready to live independently, and that you can afford the rent. Often a housing association or local council will want to see evidence that you are able to do both and this may be confirmation from a supported accommodation provider that you have successfully managed your tenancy with them and you are ready for move on.
One you have registered on Devon Home Choice you will need to log on each week to place a bid on any properties you wish to be considered for. You can place a maximum of 3 bids each week, and can bid on any suitable properties across Devon. Please visit Devon Home Choice for more information.
The amount of money you will receive, and the types of benefits and grants that you can apply for will vary depending on whether you are an:
- eligible Care Leaver
- relevant Care Leaver
- former Relevant Child
For full information on all the financial options available please visit the Stand Up Speak Out (SUSO) website.
If you are in education, or returning to education you should receive a 16-19 bursary. For more information on this and other financial support available in education please visit GOV.UK 16-19 Bursary Fund.
If you are about to move into your own accommodation or are planning to do so, you may receive financial assistance to help you move. This money could be used for rent in advance, deposit and furniture to help get you set up in your new home. You will need to speak to your Personal Advisor (PA) to find out how much you may receive and how to apply for this. You will only receive this funding once, so if you are moving into semi-independent living such as supported accommodation, you may wish to wait until you move into a more permanent home before applying for this funding.
Homeless or threatened with homelessness
If you are homeless or threatened with homelessness then it is important to seek advice at the earliest opportunity. Streetwise, which is a housing related specialist advisory and support service for young people in Torridge can provide you with support if you have nowhere to live, or you are experiencing a crisis in your current accommodation.
- offer mediation to try and keep you in your current accommodation
- provide advice on accommodation options and complete referrals for supported accommodation
- give advice on managing your money
- provide advice on how to keep your own rented accommodation
- help you to make a claim at the Job Centre or online
- help you to identify appropriate accommodation
If you are homeless or worried about your housing or becoming homeless you should contact the Streetwise Project as soon as you can. You can telephone 07875 586514 or self refer by registering on Housing Jigsaw's self referral portal.
Making a homeless application
If you are homeless or threatened with homelessness within 56 days Streetwise can take a homeless application from you on the Council's behalf. Streetwise will carry out an assessment and issue you with a Personal Housing Plan to help prevent you becoming homeless or to help you secure suitable accommodation if you are already homeless. Streetwise will work closely with the Council, your Personal Advisor (PA) and other agencies to try and help you to sustain or secure suitable housing.
As a care leaver, you are deemed to be priority need until you turn 21. This means that if you are homeless and require emergency accommodation, the Council and Streetwise will work together to find you suitable accommodation; this may be with a host family, or one of your friends or family members if appropriate. As a last resort, you may be placed in bed and breakfast accommodation, but only for the shortest time possible whilst suitable accommodation is secured.
If you have become homeless because you need further support to help you to manage independent living, Streetwise and the Council may look to offer you a placement in supported accommodation until you are ready to live independently.
There are special rules over local connection for care leavers. A young person owed leaving care duties under section 23C of the Children Act 1989 will have a local connection to the area of the children services authority that owes them those duties. This means that if your children services authority was Devon County Council you will have a local connection to all of the following local authority districts:
- East Devon District Council
- Exeter City Council
- Mid Devon District Council
- North Devon District Council
- South Hams District Council
- Teignbridge District Council
- Torridge District Council
- West Devon Borough Council
It is for you to decide which local authority you wish to approach for assistance.
For more detailed information on making a homeless application please visit Homeless or threatened with homelessness?