You don’t have to be living on the streets to be homeless. If you are sofa-surfing or living somewhere that is dangerous or overcrowded, then you may be considered homeless and be able to get help.

Can Children’s Services help if I am homeless?

If you are under 18 and homeless or at risk of becoming homeless you can ask Children’s Services for support. Children’s Services can:

  • Provide services to help you live at home
  • Help to find a suitable relative for you to live with
  • Provide housing to you.

Your needs should be assessed under section 17 of the Children Act 1989. If you are found to be in need of accommodation, then you should be provided with housing under section 20 of the same Act. If you are found accommodation under section 20 you will become a ‘looked-after child’.

Children’s Services will have a duty to provide you with housing if:

  • You are under 18
  • You are in need
  • You are present in the area of Children’s Services
  • You require accommodation.

And, one of the following applies to you:

  • No-one has Parental Responsibility for you; or
  • You are lost or abandoned; or
  • The person who has been caring for you is unable to provide suitable care and accommodation; or
  • Children’s Services thinks that your welfare would be seriously threatened if you are not given accommodation.

You would not be considered homeless if you simply do not want to live with your parents. However, if you can show that there has been a breakdown in your relationship with your parents which means you need accommodation then you might be considered homeless.

Can I get housing in an emergency?

In an emergency, Children’s Services can make an emergency placement for up to 24 hours or place you with a relative of family friend. If you are in emergency need you should present yourself to Children’s Services.

Also, if you are aged 16-25 and homeless there are Nightstop schemes which might be able to arrange temporary emergency accommodation for you.

Can I get housing from the Housing department?

The law says that if you ask the housing department of your Local Authority for help with homelessness you should first be considered for support by Children’s Services under section 17 or section 20 Children Act 1989.

It may be advisable to seek accommodation under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989. We would advise that you seek the support of an advocate or a Solicitor to provide all the information you to need to make your decision. Please see further below for our comparison table.

The housing department of a Local Authority does also have a duty to prevent homelessness and provide free advice and assistance to anyone at risk of becoming homeless within 28 days.

You are considered priority need if:

  • You have a child/children
  • You are 16 or 17
  • You are pregnant (or the person who you live with is pregnant)
  • You can’t stay where you have been living because there has been a fire, flood or another accident
  • Someone that you live with needs more help because of old age
  • You have a physical or mental illness
  • Your current accommodation is in a very bad state, officially overcrowded, unhealthy and doesn’t have basic cooking and washing facilities (if your house is dangerous or damaging to your health you will be a higher priority)
  • You have been in care. If so, the council could, if certain conditions are met, help accommodate you up to age 21 or up to the age of 25 if you are still in full-time education). For more information, see Leaving care support.

The housing department of your Local Authority will also consider whether you are ‘intentionally homeless’. The housing department may be reluctant to help you if you left suitable accommodation that you could have stayed in or if you had to leave your previous accommodation as a result of something you did or failed to do.

What are benefits of having housing under section 20 Children Act 1989?

Section 20 of the Children Act 1989Housing Act 1996 and/or section 17 of the Children Act 1989
You will get a pathway plan including support for education and employment and leaving care services.There is minimal support. There is no requirement for a pathway plan. As a young person you should participate in education or training but there is no specific support.
Children’s Services pay for your housing up to the age of 18.You are responsible for claiming benefits and paying for your accommodation and all other expenses.
Depending on local policy you may get pocket money or special allowances for birthdays and other occasions.You will not receive special allowances for birthdays or other occasions.
You can get an advocate for any complaints and representation.You are not entitled to advocacy support.
If the placement breaks down, Children’s Services must find you a new placement.If the placement breaks down and you are evicted you might be considered to be intentionally homeless and so no longer eligible for accommodation.
When you leave care at 18 you are in a priority group for housing support and may continue to receive support until the age of 21 (and in some cases 24).Once you reach 18 you are not considered a priority group for housing by the Local Authority.


Find out how you can access support with this issue by contacting the Coram Voice free Advocacy Helpline for Children and Young People on 0808 800 5792 or visit www.coramvoice.org.uk/alwaysheard