The Board received a report advising of proposals to ensure that Oldham care leavers who become homeless receive the support of full rehousing duties up to the age of 25 years. The proposal had arisen following review of the Council’s Corporate Parenting Strategy which, among other matters, included a strengthening of the role that housing played as part of the Corporate Parenting offer. Work being undertaken within the Council and Greater Manchester around care leavers was also considered, including how homelessness legislation is applied and how this positive action sets Oldham apart from many other local authorities. The Board was asked to consider giving their support to the proposals and to the new approach to enhancing the support available for care leavers through the homeless service provision in Oldham.
Young people aged 18-20 years who were formerly in care are, under homelessness legislation, automatically in ‘priority need’ and are owed a duty to be provided temporary and potentially permanent accommodation if they become homeless. Care leavers aged 21 years and over do not have automatic priority need, the housing authority having to take account of the effect that being in care may have had on them in assessing whether they should be deemed as vulnerable. If found to be vulnerable, they are owed the same duties as 18-20 year olds for the provision of temporary and potentially permanent accommodation, unless they are found to have become intentionally homeless.
The Children and Social Work Act 2017 introduced a new duty on local authorities to provide Personal Adviser support to all care leavers up to the age of 25 years, if they wanted to access this facility. This is different from the homelessness legislation which the proposals now sought to address. In addition, the Greater Manchester (GM) Care Leavers Trust was working to develop a ‘core offer’ across GM for all care leavers across several areas including free travel, homelessness prevention, education, employment, training and health offers. While the Council was not obliged to adopt this core offer, it was suggested as good practice in terms of supporting young people as a Corporate Parent.
Looking to prevent homelessness in the first instance, a Member queried whether there was a policy for or any provision of assisted living for those who felt unable to live on their own when leaving care or who may lack a support network. It was confirmed that there was a programme of supported lodgings, supported accommodation with a 24 hour staffing support and dispersed properties with floating support. It was acknowledged that more promotion of the lodging provision was required, including the seeking of more lodging hosts. In response to a further query it was advised that a ‘staying put’ arrangement was offered that would enable fostered young people to remain with foster carers beyond the age of 18 years. However, it was noted by a further Member that there was a push back against ‘staying put’ as it resulted in foster carers losing income.
The Chair noted the reported financial implications of the proposal and queried whether there had been any indication of young people coming into the Borough specifically to take up the local offer. A very limited number of such cases were acknowledged, possibly as a result of young people who had been placed into the Borough having become settled in the area and wishing to remain once reaching the age of 18 years. In such cases the young people were referred back, or ‘reconnected’, to the local authority with which they had a previous connection.
RESOLVED that -
1. the report be endorsed and the proposals which would ensure that care leavers receive the support of full rehousing duties up to the age of 25 years be commended to the Cabinet;
2. Officers report back to this body further when there are significant developments in respect of the rehousing duties owed or made available to care leavers up to the age of 25 years that the Overview and Scrutiny Board may need to consider.