Housing options protocol for care leavers: guidance for corporate parents

Guidance for local authorities and their community planning partners on improving housing and accommodation outcomes for care leavers.


1. This guidance has been published to assist local authorities and their community planning partners in the development and implementation of local 'Housing Options Protocols for Care Leavers'. These protocols should detail the processes by which young people are supported through their transition out of care and provided with a range of appropriate and sustainable accommodation options. For the purposes of this guidance 'care leavers' are defined as young people who have been 'looked after' by a local authority for a specified period of time up to their school leaving age. [1] This includes young people looked after at home, not just those provided with accommodation by the local authority ( i.e. residential or foster care). The term 'community planning partnership' ( CPP) is used throughout the guidance to refer to the various organisations responsible for planning services in a local area. All organisations involved in community planning are considered to have corporate parenting responsibilities towards care leavers, and so the term CPP can also read as 'corporate parenting partners'. [2]

2. Securing suitable accommodation options for care leavers is about much more than finding them a place to stay. Care leavers should be made aware of the full range of options available to them; including having the opportunity to remain in their care setting until they are ready to move. (For more details on this specific option, please see Staying Put Scotland.) [3] For those care leavers who do chose a move towards independence, all parts of a CPP should satisfy themselves - as responsible corporate parents [4] - that the individual has both the skills and support needed to make a success of their choice; be it a solo tenancy or a return to their biological family. The journey out of care is a particularly important and challenging transition. The success or failure of which impacts on outcomes throughout early adulthood and beyond.

3. Official guidance on the responsibilities of corporate parents, These Are Our Bairns, states that being a good corporate parent means organisations should:

  • accept responsibility for the council's looked after children and young people;
  • make their [the care leaver's] needs a priority;
  • seek for them the same outcome any good parent would want for their own children" [5]

4. By focusing on the needs of individual care leavers - following the model set out in Getting it Right for Every Child [6] and Housing Options [7] - the corporate parents within a CPP can begin to close the outcomes gap between their care leavers and non-looked after young people. How a CPP go about that task will depend on local circumstances. This guidance does not, therefore, dictate a single approach. Instead it sets out the principles that should underpin both the development and content of a Housing Protocol for Care Leavers, and provides practical examples of how good leadership and creative practice have already helped to improve young people's experience of leaving care in Scotland.

5. This guidance has been developed in full awareness of the current pressures on public resources, as well as the extraordinary work that many practitioners already undertake with young people in their care. This guidance aims to promote that excellent practice, helping to embed a culture and processes that ensure care leavers are safe, healthy, active, nurtured, achieving, respected, responsible and included.

6. The guidance is divided into three sections. The first section provides background to the issues often faced by care leavers, and summarises the legislative and policy context. The second section sets out the six core principles which should underpin the development of Housing Options Protocols for Care Leavers. All relevant organisations will want to ensure that these principles are understood and implemented by their staff and partners. The third section provides a comprehensive overview of the steps local authorities and their community planning partners should take when developing (or updating) their Housing Options Protocol for Care Leavers. It also provides examples of existing practice, highlighting important issues for local authorities and their community planning partners to consider.

7. Please note that implementation of this guidance will be monitored by the Scottish Government and relevant inspection authorities.


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