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6.3A Protocol regarding the Management of 16 and 17 year old Young People who may be Homeless or require Accommodation


This protocol has been written to assist workers in Housing and Children's Social Care in relation to their duties under Part 3 of the Children Act 1989 and Part 7 of the Housing Act 1996. This protocol should be read in conjunction with:

Statutory Guidance on Provision of accommodation for 16 and 17 year olds who may be homeless and/or require accommodation (Gov.UK, April 2018)

Homelessness Duty to Refer Guidance

This link also includes a ‘Duty to Refer’ referral form and ‘Duty to Refer’ email address list.

Homelessness Code of Guidance for Local Authorities (GOV.UK, 2018)


This chapter was updated in March 2019 by adding Links to Homelessness Duty to Refer Guidance and Homelessness Code of Guidance for Local Authorities (GOV.UK, 2018).


  1. Principles and Framework (Prevention)
  2. Threats and Risks of Homelessness/Becoming Looked After
  3. Homelessness and the outcome of Social care Assessment
  4. Approaches to Children's Social Care
  5. Section 17 Assessment
  6. Section 20
  7. Assessment
  8. Timescales
  9. The Ascertainable Wishes and Feelings of Young People (Section 26 of the Children Act 1989)
  10. Providing Accommodation
  11. Dispute Resolution

1. Principles and Framework (Prevention)


Local Authorities should, where feasible, promote the upbringing of children by their families. A range of services exist within the London Borough of Southwark to ensure that children within the ages of 16 and 17 are able to remain within their family where there is a threat of homelessness. These services include the following:

  • Mediation services;
  • Family group conferencing;
  • Parenting resources;
  • Social work allocation;
  • Alternatives to Care Team in Social Care (preventative workers).
1.2 Resources to prevent a young person becoming homeless can and should be offered while assessment processes continue.

2. Threats and Risks of Homelessness/Becoming Looked After

2.1 16 and 17 year old young people who are at risk of homelessness or are homeless may seek help either initially from Housing Department (HASS) or from Children's Social Care. In certain instances, the initial approach to a professional may be to another agency such as the ICSS or Targeted Youth Support Services. In such instances, young people are likely to be directed initially to the HASS or Children's Social Care.
2.2 Where a young person approaches HASS where there is a risk of homelessness in the first instance this will be treated as an application for assistance under Part 7 of the 1996 Housing Act.
2.3 In situations where HASS have reason to believe that the young person is homeless, they will have a duty to secure interim accommodation pursuant to Section 188(1) of the 1996 Act pending a decision whether a substantive duty is owed under Part 7. HASS will ensure they consider the particular vulnerability of the young person when considering the suitability of the accommodation.
2.4 Where HASS have reason to believe that a young person is likely to become homeless within 28 days or is homeless, a CAF should be undertaken and a meeting arranged with Children's Social Care for an assessment.

3. Homelessness and the outcome of Social Care Assessment

3.1 The question as to whether any duty is owed under Part 7 of the 1996 Act is dependent on the outcome of the assessment undertaken by Children's Services and whether there is a duty under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989 to accommodate the young person.
3.2 Housing services will provide interim accommodation where any duty arises in relation to their provisions laid out in Part 7 of the Housing Act 1996.
3.3 A Single Assessment will be completed by Children's Social Care within 10 working days of notification. Interim accommodation provided by the Housing Department will continue to be in place and be managed by HASS during the assessment period. Where at the conclusion or during the assessment Children's Services accept there is a duty under Section 20, the young person will no longer be regarded as homeless and the Housing Department will have no further duties under the 1996 Housing Act towards the young person.
3.4 Approaches by young people declaring they are homeless from other Local Authorities will be referred to Children's Services for assessment/review. HASS may only conclude it is able to refer the applicant to another authority if they are satisfied the applicant is eligible, unintentionally homeless, in priority need, does not have a local connection with Southwark but has one elsewhere.

4. Approaches to Children's Social Care

4.1 16 or 17 year olds who are at risk of homelessness may seek help from Children's Social Care or be referred by another agency. This will include young people who are unaccompanied asylum seekers.
4.2 The initial responsibility of Children's Social Care is to determine whether further assessment is required. Once a decision to gather further information is made a Single Assessment will be commenced. The determination arising from this assessment is to establish if they are in need and whether the young person is eligible under Section 20 of the 1989 Act to be offered accommodation and become looked after
4.3 Young people presenting as homeless should be offered an appointment with the Housing Specialist Worker in Children's Social Care and/or consultation should be sought from the Housing worker about the obligations that arise under the guidance.
4.4 Where HASS has notified Children's Social Care that a young person is at risk of or is homeless and has been offered interim accommodation an interim assessment should be commenced.
4.5 Where a 16 or 17 year old is seeking help and it appears that he/she has nowhere safe to stay that night the young person must be provided with accommodation under Section 20 while their needs are assessed. Bed and breakfast accommodation is not regarded as suitable for 16 and 17 year olds, even on an emergency basis. When young people become looked after under Section 20 they will not be eligible for welfare benefits including Housing Benefits and therefore Children's Services will have a duty to maintain them.

5. Section 17 Assessment

5.1 Where there is reason to believe that a young person is/or appears to be threatened with homelessness an assessment should be carried out to determine whether the young person is actually homeless and requires accommodation and also a full understanding of the young person's needs and their family and environmental circumstances will be necessary.
5.2 At the point where the need for an assessment is identified it will also be important for the professional worker undertaking the assessment to agree a plan with the young person and their family.

Any assessment will need to also include an indication of whether the young person can remain with or return to their family/ the person who has been caring for them with additional support and further work.

An assessment should also include an assessment as to whether the young person is able to be cared for by other family members.

6. Section 20

6.1 The determining factors in making a decision with regard to accommodation of young people are laid out in the legislation in Section 20.

Section 20(1) requires that:

Every local authority shall provide accommodation for any child in need within their area who appears to them to require accommodation as a result of -

  1. There being no person who has parental responsibility for him;
  2. His being lost or having been abandoned; or
  3. The person who has been caring for him being prevented (whether or not permanently, and for whatever reason) from providing him with suitable accommodation or care.

In addition, even if the criteria in Section 20(1) do not apply, Section 20(3) requires that:

Every local authority shall provide accommodation for any child in need within their area who has reached the age of sixteen and whose welfare the authority consider is likely to be seriously prejudiced if they do not provide him with accommodation.

In addition, Section 20(4), provides that:

A local authority may provide accommodation for any child within their area (even though a person who has parental responsibility for him is able to provide him with accommodation) if they consider that to do so would safeguard or promote the child's welfare.

7. Assessment

7.1 An Single Assessment (see Protocol for SIngle Assessments (agreed with Southwark Safeguarding Children Board)) should be carried out in the first instance by a social worker and a member of HASS team. Young people who initially approach Children's Social Care should be signposted to the housing worker. The lead agency in the assessment will be Children's Services.
7.2 The young person, adult with Parental Responsibility and any significant family members known to the young person should be spoken to as part of the assessment process. In most instances during the course of the Assessment a home visit should be undertaken as part of the assessment process.
7.3 The conclusion of an assessment carried out of a young person of 16 and 17 presenting as homeless must be formally recorded. The outcome of the assessment will be that the young person is either assessed as being in need or not in need. Where the young person is in need a decision will be recorded as to whether the young person requires accommodation as set out in Section 20(1) (a) -(c). Where a young person is homeless then he or she will, save in exceptional circumstances, be within the definition of a Child in Need.
7.4 In situations where it is determined the young person is not homeless and does not require accommodation for one of the reasons in Section 20 consideration should still be given as to whether the young person is a Child in Need and whether they require services under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989. The conclusion of the assessment process, where it is regarded that services are required, should include a Child in Need Plan.

8. Timescales

8.1 The decision as to whether the young person requires an assessment should be taken within one working day.
8.2 The decision to gain more information constitutes a decision to undertake a Single Assessment and this should be completed within 45 working days.
8.3 Where Children's Social Care in Southwark has determined the young person is in need of accommodation and Housing Department are providing interim accommodation, Housing Services should be notified by Children's Social Care immediately of the outcome of the assessment. Where accommodation is to be provided under Section 20 and a proposed move of placement is indicated such a move should take place as quickly as possible.
8.4 Any assessment is not complete until Children's Social Care has decided what action is required and the young person is informed along with any parent with Parental Responsibility and other significant adult, Housing Services and any other agencies.

9. The Ascertainable Wishes and Feelings of Young People (Section 26 of the Children Act 1989)


Before providing accommodation under Section 20 (6) of the Children Act 1989, a Local Authority must as far as reasonably practicable and consistent with the child's welfare:

  1. Ascertain the child's wishes and feelings with regards to the provision of accommodation; and
  2. Give due consideration having regard to his age and understanding to such wishes and feelings of the child as they have been able to ascertain.
9.2 Where a young person indicates they do not wish to be accommodated, Children's Social Care should not necessarily reach the conclusion that the young person's wishes and feelings are decisive / determinative but they should be taken into account.
9.3 The approach to any assessment should be child centred. Young people should be informed about the assessment and planning process and also be kept informed about the progress and timescales involved in the completion of an assessment.
9.4 Young people should be informed fully and consulted so they understand the implications of being looked after by Children's Services. The young person should be advised about the support that they can expect as a looked after child and a care leaver.
9.5 They should also be informed about the assistance that would be available from Housing Services under Part 7 of the Act if they do not become looked after.
9.6 It is particularly important to ensure that young people understand the implications of becoming homeless intentionally in the future and how this will impact on further offers of accommodation from Housing Services. This information will be provided in a child friendly format.
9.7 If there are any concerns in relation to a young person's capacity to make a judgement about what their own interests are further discussion will need to take place between the agencies involved. In the course of the assessment the young person should be advised about independent or advocacy services.
9.8 The decision by a young person not to be looked after should be carefully recorded and should be made only when those conducting the assessment are satisfied the young person understands the full implications of and differences between the housing and looked after routes.
9.9 When a young person does not co-operate or engage in the assessment process and appears to reject any provision from Children's Services or any attempts to provide him or her with accommodation, the assessment process should continue and a careful record made of how Children's Social Care has tried to engage the young person to assess their needs.

When a 16 or 17 year old in need does not agree to be looked after, Children Social Care must be satisfied that:-

  1. The young person is being provided with all the relevant information; and
  2. They are competent to make such a decision. What if they are not competent to make a decision?

10. Providing Accommodation

10.1 Children Social Care will provide accommodation for young people that are suitable to meet their needs. The range of options is likely to include foster care, children's homes, supported lodgings, foyers, properties with visiting support and other types of supported accommodation. Children's Social Care will work with Housing Services to provide a range of options.
10.2 The choice of placement will be dependent upon the outcome of the assessment of the young person's needs.
10.3 The determination of the kind of accommodation the young person requires will be dependent on a range of factors including the young person's emotional and behavioural needs, availability of familial support, engagement with education and training, involvement in criminal activity, availability of the support from peers and/or the family network, the young person's practical capacity to manage their own needs, and the determination as to whether a young person is involved in substance misuse or has mental health difficulties which require normal support.
10.4 Such accommodation should bear in mind the needs of a young person in their transition to adulthood.

11. Dispute Resolution

11.1 It is likely that operational officers in Children's and Housing Services will encounter difficulties where this guidance does not fully address the issues raised or the matter is open to interpretation. In such situations they should talk to each other and if the matter cannot be resolved it should be referred in the first instance to line managers. In the event that the issues cannot be resolved at this level service managers will be asked to reach agreement.
11.2 In exceptional circumstances, where there are issues which cannot be resolved by service managers or are outside of the scope of this protocol these should be referred to the Head of Service for the Assessment, Safeguarding and Family Support Services from Children's Services and Head of Service for Housing Assessment and Support Services.