Housing Law WeekBerkeley Lifford Hall Accountancy ServicesAlphabiolabsIQ Legal Training

Commons Local Government Committee calls for more help for care leavers

Report published on homelessness

The House of Commons Communities and Local Government Committee has published a report following its inquiry into homelessness. The Committee has found that a demonstrable increase in homelessness, driven by the cost and availability of housing, has pushed the problem to such a level that a renewed Government-wide strategy is needed.

The Committee considered the plight of care leavers. It quotes Crisis which noted that 24 per cent of homeless people have been in care, which suggests that further support to help the transition from being in care to independence is needed. Three clients of The Children's Society, all formerly in care and who had experienced homelessness, told the Committee about a lack of structure to the transition when leaving care. If they are not in education, support ends at 18 when care leavers face a "sudden cliff-edge". They also highlighted the fact that very few young people can now afford to leave home at 18 and so continue to receive support from their parents, yet for care leavers the safety net is removed with no option of returning for further support, help or guidance.

The report notes that care leavers are by definition vulnerable and require additional support (this issue is also considered in the Education Committee's report on the mental health and well-being of looked-after children). Consideration should therefore be given by the Government to review the transition to independence. To help reduce the risk of homelessness for children leaving care, the Committee recommends that Government should consider a policy whereby they should not be required to pay council tax until they are 21.

In response to the report, Sam Royston, Director of Policy and Research at The Children's Society, said:

"This important inquiry rightly recognises the urgent need to tackle homelessness across Britain. Too often The Children's Society sees young people — and particularly care leavers — are being put at risk of not having a stable place to live as a result of inadequate support with housing costs.

"Plans to exclude many 18-21 year olds from entitlement to Housing Benefit, as well as a four year freeze on help with rents in the private rental sector, put young people at further risk. The Government needs to make sure that all young people in need can access housing support, and that help with costs for those renting privately reflects actual local rents.

"Too often young people leaving care face getting into debt on their rent and council tax. It is crucial that the Government allows this group to have their housing benefit paid directly to their landlord when they are struggling to manage their bills. Also, it is vital that the Government makes care leavers exempt from paying council tax until they are 21.

"Homelessness among young people is at crisis point. All parts of government involved in making decisions about young people's futures must work together to develop a coordinated plan committed to ending youth homelessness once and for all."

For the report, please click here. For a summary, click here.