At what age can I…

age-ward120Secure Accommodation

At the age of 13, if you are ‘looked after’ by a Local Authority, you can be locked up in a secure unit of a children’s home for up to 72 hours, or longer by court order. This may happen if you have a history of running away and you are likely to suffer harm because of this, or you are likely to hurt yourself or others if you are not in a secure unit.

s.25 Children Act 1989, Children (Secure Accommodation) Regulations 1991

For more information, see Accommodation for under 16s.


At the age of 16, you can enter into a housing contract. A housing contract is enforceable and therefore you can be held liable for breach of a contract.

s.15 Law of Property Act 1925.  106. ss.175-178 and 188-191 Housing Act 1996

At the age of 16, the Local Authority has a duty to house you if you are homeless, in need of help, or in priority need and you did not make yourself intentionally homeless.

Homelessness Code of Guidance for Local Authorities. July 2006.  108. s.20(3) Children Act 1989

For more information, see Homelessness.

At the age of 16, you can usually leave home without the consent of your parents or anyone else with parental responsibility. However, there are certain circumstances where an application can be made to court for you to return.

At the age of 16, if you are or have been a child ‘looked after’ by the local authority, you will be given a personal advisor and a pathway plan will be created to give you with advice, help and support.

s.3 Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000

age-leavehome120Leaving Home

At the age of 18, you can leave home without parental consent.

age-adopt120Care Orders

At the age of 17, the Local Authority can no longer apply for a care order for you.

s.31(3) Children Act 1989

At the age of 21, if you are or were a ‘looked after’ child, your personal advisor pathway plan will usually end when you are 21 unless you are in further education or training.

s23C Children Act 1989, inserted by s.3 Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000

At the age of 21, if you were ‘looked after’ by the local authority between the ages of 16 and 18, the local authority continues to be under a duty to advise and befriend you. If you are in higher education the local authority has a duty to assist you financially up until the age of 24 if necessary.

s.24 Children Act 1989, inserted by s.4 Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000

For more information, see Support post-16.