Posted: 27 May 2019

Worrying levels of youth homelessness

Young people aged 16 and 17 are particularly vulnerable to homelessness, often due to multiple disadvantages in their lives. Factors such as poverty, poor mental health, peer influence, crime, familial abuse or neglect can lead to tense relationships between parents and children, which often escalate to a critical point and result in a child becoming homeless at the age of 16 or 17. 

The Homelessness section of our Transitions into Adulthood report, in partnership with Centrepoint, outlines how a lack of support from parents and services can lead to worrying levels of homelessness in 16 and 17 year olds.  


103,000 young people sought help for being homeless or at risk of homelessness in 2017/18

Last year, almost 400 young people aged 16-17 contacted Centrepoint’s homelessness helpline. At least 28 of these had already approached the council and only four were afforded accommodation. Simply being a young person without a home is no longer enough to warrant a priority need.  

‘It is concerning that those children who do not quite meet the threshold for being “looked after” are pretty much left to fend for themselves and are not afforded this same support.’ - Centrepoint practitioner 

Many cases are dealt with by local authority housing teams rather than children’s services. They’ll often make decisions on the young person’s behalf, without consulting them first. Some housing teams prolong assessment periods until young people turn 18 and are no longer priority need. As a result, young people are not effectively referred to children’s services and are not afforded the support they may be entitled to. 

'Social Services were unwilling to accept me because I was “too old”'

At age 16, Comfort was the victim of domestic violence. The police were called but because her next of kin were the two people involved, Comfort was returned to them. 

‘I had contact with Social Services numerous times…When I approached Single Homelessness Intervention and Prevention (SHIP), I was asked to bring written proof from my mother that I could no longer live at home. This was a problem because my mother would have never written the letter. Luckily, my uncle was willing to write me a letter and spoke to the case worker on the phone on my behalf.

‘This moment probably saved my life’

The two boroughs could not decide who owed me the duty and Social Services were unwilling to accept me because “I was too old”. This decision was devastating because I had no idea what my rights were. 

Every morning I would go to Single Homelessness Intervention and Prevention (SHIP) with a bag of clothes to get my appointment for after college. I would never be seen until just before closing when they would give me a map, an emergency number and a few pounds to travel to my destination. 

Young people often failed by the services in place to support them

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government need to do more to ensure young people at risk of homelessness have the support they need.

They should ensure that young people who present as homeless before they turn 18 are entitled to the support they would have received at 17 and the assessment spans their 18th birthday. Plus, they should revise the status of priority need so more young people aren't simply ignored by local authorities. Read more about the problems and solutions in our Transitions into Adulthood Report.


By Kaja Zuvac-Graves

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