Young People's Zone
CAN I GET A COUNCIL FLAT WHEN I TURN 18?
For many years, Children’s Services helped care leavers to get a council flat when they turned 18 so it’s not surprising that you might expect this to happen. Unfortunately, things have changed over recent years and now there is no guarantee that you will get a council flat when you leave care. Part of the problem is that there are simply not enough council flats around for the people who need them.
The law doesn’t help much either. It doesn’t actually say that Children’s Services must provide you with accommodation, it just says that they must provide you with “other assistance” as far as your “welfare requires it” (Section 23C(4)(c) The Children Act 1989). Pretty vague, eh?
What this means in practice is that Children’s Services need to assess you and provide whatever help you need to make sure you are OK. Making sure that you have a roof over your head is pretty important and so normally “other assistance” will include helping you get your own place. In fact, a young person did take this to court and the judge said that Children’s Services must provide suitable accommodation if you can’t get this in any other way (R.(SO) v Barking & Dagenham LBC (2010) EWCA Civ1101).
Helping you get suitable accommodation doesn’t necessarily mean getting a council flat, though. Every Children’s Services will have a different policy on exactly what help they offer, so it’s hard to say precisely what will happen. Getting a council flat or a flat with a private landlord are the most common options so here is the basic information you need to know. Go to 'Can I rent somewhere privately?' to find out more about renting from a private landlord.
As a care leaver aged between 18 and 21 the law says that you are in “priority need” for somewhere to live from the housing department if you haven’t got anywhere else to live (Articles 2 and 4, Homelessness (Priority Need for Accommodation) (England) Order 2002). This means that the Housing Department must provide you with a council place or make sure that they find you somewhere else (section s.184(3) Housing Act 1996).
Care leavers may also have priority on the council’s housing list. This means that the housing department would place you towards the top of the list to get a council flat but this depends on what the housing department in your area have agreed to do in their policy, and also how many council properties are available. This will vary from area to area so it is really important that you discuss the housing policy with your Personal Advisor (PA) (see The Name Game, Become).
You can only have priority for council housing in the area where your Children’s Services and housing department is. For example, if your Children’s Services are in the London Borough of Camden, you can only be put higher up on the housing list (“priority need”) in Camden. If you moved out of that area when you were younger, you would have to think about going back to Camden to get a council flat or looking at a different option.
If you want to go on the housing list to get your own council flat, your PA should help you with this. Every area has slightly different rules about what you need to do next so it is important that you talk to your PA about it as soon as possible.