We couldn’t do our Care Leavers’ Week blog series without addressing the issue of housing. According to the charity Centrepoint, 14 per cent of care leavers have experienced rough sleeping and over a quarter have sofa surfed. Even amongst those who are not homeless, accommodation is often inadequate, with figures suggesting that nearly a fifth of care leavers’ accommodation placements are unsuitable.
As an organisation, Drive Forward Foundation’s main purpose is to support care leavers to achieve their full potential through employment, training and education. No matter how ready young people are for employment, however, they may be held back by complex housing needs.
When a young person leaves care, there are a few types of accommodation that they may move to. Under the ‘staying put’ scheme, young people may well stay with foster carers until they are ready to move into a more permanent, independent home. However, for many young people, there is often a transition period in which they stay in semi-independent or supported accommodation.
A recent Newsnight series has exposed some of the issues around semi-independent and supported accommodation, such as a lack of regulation and young people’s increased vulnerability in the face of criminal exploitation such as “county lines” or sexual exploitation.
In terms of more permanent accommodation, care leavers are often barred from the private rented sector for a number of reasons. Firstly, many private landlords refuse to accept social security recipients which excludes many who are in the process of leaving care. Furthermore, it can be a near-impossible task for care leavers to save enough for a private rental deposit.
Rather than private renting, many care leavers will move into social housing when they leave care. The availability of good quality social housing, however, varies from borough to borough. We’ve heard of situations in which social housing flats come without flooring or any white goods. This means that the £2,000 setting up home allowance care leavers are entitled to may not go particularly far. The bidding process in itself can be very difficult to navigate on their own, meaning that young people often end up dissatisfied with their homes.
The average person in the UK leaves the family home and begins to live independently at the age of 24. But when a care leaver is faced with similar levels of responsibility at the age of 18 or even 16, without the right and consistent budgeting support, it is easy to see how problems with paying rent can occur.
The issues with care leaver housing are multi-faceted and complex. At Drive Forward Foundation we would advocate for better regulated and safer semi-independent accommodation as well as more consistent availability of good quality, affordable social housing. Without a strong foundation and a safe home, nobody can reach their full potential. Getting housing right for care leavers is too important to ignore.
HEAD OF YOUTH ENGAGEMENT