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.

Practice Guidance

35. This third section takes local authorities and their corporate parenting partners through the steps of developing and implementing a housing protocol for care leavers. It includes examples from local authorities who have been involved in developing the 'housing options' approach across Scotland in recent years. [34] It highlights a range of different procedures, and explains how these may be carried out to meet care leavers needs, in accordance with the six principles that should underpin all 'Housing Protocols for Care Leavers' (as set out in Section 2 above).

36. The guidance in this section has been grouped under specific themes, each relating to a specific discussion and / or process that CPPs will need to undertake to develop - and effectively implement - a Housing Protocol. These themes do not have to be worked through in a particular order, but due consideration must be given to each. The themes are:

  • Housing Allocation - Care Leavers as a Priority Group
  • Identifying Accommodation Options (including 'Prevention of Homelessness')
  • Supporting Care Leavers into Sustainable Accommodation
  • Partnership Working
  • Monitoring & Recording


37. Community Planning Partnerships will want to ensure that individual care leavers are prioritised in their housing allocations. This is in response to care leavers' particular vulnerability and need, and in line with authorities' corporate parenting duties. The priority status afforded to care leavers should help ensure that the risk of homelessness is reduced or avoided; indeed it is recommended that such an aim is made explicit in all housing protocols for care leavers. The example below illustrates the aims of an existing local authority strategy / protocol. CPPs will note that the aims reflect the underpinning principles of connection and belonging and readiness, (outlined above in this guidance).

38. Access to social housing lists in Scotland is open to all individuals aged 16 or over, but the allocation of a home is based on an assessment of an applicant's need. Those who are to be given reasonable preference for being allocated housing include applicants who are homeless or threatened with homelessness, amongst others. The Scottish Government's Social Housing Allocations Practice Guide advises social landlords that there are certain examples where it would be good practice to accept applications before an applicant is 16 years old, for example, to help with the transition of a young person from care to independent living. [35] The practice guide discusses that one of the protocols landlords may wish to set up with their partners is in relation to young people leaving care, to ensure their needs and vulnerabilities are assessed and addressed and to ensure that forward planning prevents housing crisis in the future.

Extract from Care Leaver Protocol
North Ayrshire Council

The overarching aim of this Protocol is to ensure a co-ordinated response to the accommodation needs of care leavers. It outlines the legal and operational frameworks agreed between the departments for providing assessment, planning and appropriate accommodation for young people leaving care. It also provides for care leavers who have found themselves unexpectedly homeless or in significant housing difficulty. This will be achieved by ensuring:

  • No young person will become homeless on leaving residential care
  • A range of accommodation and support solutions will be made available to young care leavers on discharge from care and until their 21 st birthday if involved with the Throughcare service
  • Provision will be based on the best interest of the young person taking their views into account
  • A joint approach involving all relevant partners will be adopted to maximise tenancy sustainment
  • The protocol reflects the commitment of each party to strengthen existing services and joint working arrangements detailing the duties and responsibilities of each department
  • Both parties are committed to working together to improve outcomes for young people who have been looked after and accommodated
  • Housing services will ensure the provision of appropriate advice and assistance to young people leaving care in order to prevent homelessness and ensure transition to suitable accommodation.

[In respect to] outcomes, Housing and Social services will ensure that a care leaver receives:

  • a consistent integrated service
  • a completed Pathway Assessment and Plan which identifies the views of the care leaver
  • access to accommodation which considers the young person's needs and choice
  • access to an appeals and resolution service which is described and understood by them
  • appropriate support during their transition to independence within the community


39. The type of accommodation made available to a care leaver can make an enormous difference to the success of their transition to adult living. The allocation of the appropriate accommodation (and support) from the outset reduces the chance of repeated breakdown and homelessness. It also facilitates sustained engagement in education, training or employment. CPPs will want to ensure they have a range of housing options available to care leavers, from supported lodgings through to independent tenancies. The pathways assessment and plan should set out what kind of accommodation best meets the needs (and wishes) of the young person, and should detail how this is to be obtained and supported. However not all young people will be looking to move from their current placements, and CPPs should both encourage and support young people to remain in their care placements until they are ready to move on (see Staying Put Scotland: Guidance for Corporate Parents, 2013).

40. Strategic planning and partnerships are essential to the supply of suitable accommodation. In the particular case of housing, these partnerships will include all Registered Social Landlords providing accommodation within a local authority area. They will also include private landlords who form part of any local authority strategic housing plan, particularly where a management consortium has been formed to address local need. A useful example of this is the City of Edinburgh's Private Sector Leasing Scheme.

41. A permanent, single person tenancy may not be the best option for a young care leaver. Some young people will need a more graduated transition towards such an option. This does not mean, however, that care leavers should experience multiple moves (from one accommodation to another). Instead, CPPs will - in some cases - need to provide a high level of practical and emotional support at the outset of young person's transition from care, which can be tapered off over time. The example below describes how one local authority secures and manages a supply of 'starter flats' for their care leavers and other vulnerable young people.

42. Where a CPP has committed to assisting a care leaver by providing them with accommodation, they must ensure that the accommodation is suitable. This means that a young person's wishes must be taken into account, alongside their assessed needs. Consideration should be given to the individual's physical and health needs, as well as where the accommodation is located. It may be important, for example, for a young person to be close to support networks or to have easy transport links to their place of study or employment

43. It is recognised that some young people may express a preference for accommodation that is not considered appropriate by the local authority. On an individual basis these issues should be explored in the Pathway Plan, the young person's wishes taken into account, and the discussions (and decisions) properly recorded.

Extract from Care Leaver Protocol
North Ayrshire Council

The Pathway Co-ordinator from Social Services will be responsible for convening a planning meeting to which Housing will be invited. The coordinator will also ensure that the relevant people required to attend as identified by the young person are notified. This meeting should be convened at the earliest stage possible, usually six months before the young person leaves care.


A care leaver's housing and support needs will be identified as part of the Pathway Planning Process. Throughcare will, in partnership with others, provide a detailed assessment of the young person's needs in both the short and longer term by way of accommodation. A planning meeting will be called 6 weeks prior to a young person's discharge. The Homeless Assessment Prevention and Advice Officer ( HAPA) will attend this meeting to discuss and identify housing options and will complete the necessary paperwork.

Throughcare and HAPA will have weekly contact prior to discharge to ensure the transition from care is seamless. Throughcare will have responsibility for ensuring the identified support package is in place before the young person leaves care.

The HAPA officer should record summary information within the Housing Services advice and information database which should be updated and maintained through to final resettlement.

44. While accommodation options should be identified and discussed prior to a young person leaving care, CPPs may also wish to address certain issues explicitly in their local care leaver protocol. The extract below - from an existing housing strategy for care leavers - illustrates how this can be done.

45. CPPs should put in place appropriate mechanisms for handling tensions between the wishes of the young person and the outcomes of the readiness assessment. Such mechanisms include peer support groups, mediation and/or advocacy. Access to these types of supports should be available to care leavers throughout their journey into adulthood.

46. One approach to identifying a joint way forward is the use of 'joint interviews and mediation'. This highlights the priority given to early and effective intervention, being proactive and aiming to prevent crises.

Joint Interviews & Mediation
South Ayrshire Council

All young people receive a ' joint interview'. This is a needs led assessment completed jointly by the Throughcare and Housing Teams. This process identifies the needs of the young person and triggers contacts with our partner agencies to ensure that the young person's needs are met promptly and adequately. The process is slightly different for Care Leavers and is coordinated by the young people's individual Throughcare Workers.

The benefits of this approach have been:

  • Facilitates early Intervention;
  • Allows us to jointly assess young person's needs;
  • Young person is less likely to feel unsupported and isolated;
  • Allows us to prepare individual packages of support that reflect young person's needs;
  • Where appropriate, it allows us to establish and promote contact between a young person and their family/friends.

Used as an early intervention tool, the process of ' mediation' can prevent young people becoming homeless and therefore assist them to avoid other social problems that can follow. It empowers individuals and promotes positive self-esteem, builds confidence and enhances social skills. The focus is on improving communication, allowing the young person to address their relationship difficulties in a mutually agreeable way. The role of the mediator is to promote, facilitate and manage contact between the individuals concerned. The mediator must remain impartial and not make judgements or take sides.

Mediation is for care leavers in a range of situations including:

  • Risk of homelessness due to family relationship breakdown
  • Presents to the council as homeless but does not meet the criteria for homeless accommodation;
  • Where parents / carers require support in improving or sustaining their relationships with the young people they look after.

Prevention of homelessness

47. As outlined in the Principles above (Section 2) young people who have been looked after should not have to present as 'homeless' to be provided with accommodation. This principle should guide the development of all CPP Housing Options Protocols. Using the "homelessness route" to secure a care leaver accommodation often means the transition is insufficiently planned and supported, and therefore with a low likelihood of success. Similarly, CPPs should consider whether B&B or certain hostel accommodation is suitable accommodation for care leavers, in the light of their vulnerability. In allocating accommodation to homeless households, local authorities in Scotland must already give proper consideration to the suitability of B&B and hostel accommodation to certain vulnerable groups, including families with children.

48. In Scotland all those assessed as unintentionally homeless by local authorities are (since the end of 2012) entitled to 'settled accommodation', and from June 2013 they have also had the right to be assessed as to whether they require housing support (if the local authority has reason to believe they require it). Both of these developments have implications for the prevention of homelessness among care leavers.

49. Guidance relating to the housing support duty makes specific reference to addressing the needs of young people - including care leavers. All CPPs are encouraged to familiarise themselves with the guidance. [36] It includes a local authority example relating to the provision of supported lodgings for care leavers, and information on the National Co-ordinators funded by the Scottish Government to address the areas of service user involvement, re-building social networks, furniture re-use and employability; all of which can be crucial for preventing homelessness amongst young people. (For more details on this guidance, please follow the link in the footnote below.)

50. The vulnerability to homelessness of care leavers has also been addressed in the Scottish Government / COSLA Prevention of Homelessness Guidance issued to local authorities in 2009. [37]

51. Corporate Parents and Community Planning Partners will also want to ensure that any placement in emergency accommodation is preceded by a full assessment of the individual's circumstances and the potential impact the placement may have on their health and wellbeing.

Extract from Housing protocol
Perth & Kinross Council

The panel operates on a monthly basis and is chaired by the Housing Options & Support Co-ordinator. The panel will identify gaps in service provision and promote effective communication to work with young people, who are homeless, in an integrated and responsive approach. The panel will focus on three areas:

Access to Accommodation and Support for Young People - presentations contained within the [Chair's] report [to the panel] will be discussed to identify any young person at risk, those requiring additional support and those in unsuitable accommodation.

Young People at Risk of Losing their Current Placement - A discussion will be held to identify the best course of action to prevent the placement and / or accommodation being lost such as additional support, face to face meetings with the young person etc. The reasons that young people could be at risk of losing their placement are due to some of the following reasons:

  • Non-engagement
  • Police involvement
  • Not working with services or dedicated workers
  • Drug and / or alcohol issues
  • Mental Health issues

A discussion will be held to identify the best course of action to prevent the placement and / or accommodation being lost such as additional support, face to face meetings with the young person etc.

Move Arrangements for Young People - The Housing Options & Support Co-ordinator and members of the panel will present cases of young people who are ready to move from their current temporary or permanent placement / accommodation using the agreed risk assessment tool and care plan. A discussion will be held to ensure the young person is ready to move on and that appropriate support is in place.


52. Moving to new accommodation can be stressful and CPPs will want to make sure that the levels of support they provide meet the needs of each individual. Some young people will need more support than others and authorities should have a range of services which cater for these differences. [38] In planning and developing services, local authorities and their corporate parenting / community planning partners may wish to refer to the Housing Support Duty to Homeless Households: Guidance for Local Authorities (issued in June 2013) which states that: 'authorities should consider needs around health, employability and social networks. Local authorities could also adopt a holistic approach to ensure issues such as addictions, self-esteem, ability to 'gate keep own front door', loneliness and isolation are considered.

53. CPPs may also wish to take into account the recommendations of the Supported Accommodation Implementation Group [39] . Its final report, published in November 2012, highlighted the importance of developing appropriate, person centred support services with a focus on employability and service user involvement. It also emphasised the importance of providing support to those in their own tenancies, and those in short term accommodation preparing for their own tenancies.

54. The Scottish Government's Social Housing Allocations Practice also highlights the importance of supporting new tenants, from getting them settled in, through to maintaining their tenancy. CPPs should carefully consider the advice and support they make available to young people; especially those setting up their first tenancy. CPP managers will want to ensure positive relationships exist between housing staff and care leavers, at both a corporate and frontline level. Mangers in housing services may wish to ensure that a group of designated housing staff are trained to fully understand the needs of care leavers, and are able to advise other staff or take on lead roles (in respect to care leavers). Similarly, managers in social work services (in particular throughcare and aftercare teams) should ensure that some staff have an understanding of housing options and accommodation allocation protocols.

Extract from Housing strategy
South Lanarkshire Council

Having and keeping a home: On-going support is needed to ensure that young people can successfully maintain living arrangements. Accommodation needs to be of good quality with sufficient furnishings. Fundamentally, care leavers need to feel safe and secure and access to 24 hours support may be necessary.

Involving young people in care planning: Continuously seeking the views of young people and involving them in the pathway planning processes at all times is crucial for successful assessment of needs and preparing the pathway plan. There are a number of ways in which this can be achieved. Positive working relationships with young people are key to successful Pathway planning. We also have other forums where views can be sought, e.g. The Young Voice Group and themed events in which young people participate through individual and group conversations. All of these help to ensure that young people's views are embedded throughout the moving on journey. Each young person will have different needs and therefore the focus and pace of work needs to be individually set.

55. Whatever accommodation options is allocated to a care leaver, its success will depend on the planning that precedes it, and the support that runs alongside it. In preparing for a transition out of care (and into a housing option), corporate parents will want to ensure that the following issues have been considered.

56. Emotional support: Care leavers frequently identify emotional support as a key concern. [40] Feeling lonely, depressed, worried and anxious is commonly reported. In respect to solutions, care leavers maintain it is the 'small things' that can matter most; having someone who will listen to them; access to 'out of hours' support (when they are mostly likely to need it); access to mental health services.

57. Developing skills: Budgeting, cooking, cleaning are all skills that may need to be developed before certain accommodation options become viable. Pathway planning should identify the opportunities that will be made available for young people to develop these skills.

58. Financial support: Providing care leavers with access to appropriate (and timeous) financial support is imperative to making certain accommodation options successful. While there has been confusion about eligibility to aftercare services (as highlighted in Barnardo's Scotland submission to the Equal Opportunities Committee Inquiry [41] ) the various corporate parents that make up a CPP should consider their moral and social responsibility to these young people. Financial stress and strain for care leavers can quickly escalate into a multitude of problems, including homelessness.

59. Opportunities to return and make mistakes: Young people should be encouraged to visit former carers (be it residential or foster care) and maintain relationships. Moreover, wherever possible care leavers should be able to return to their original care placements. Where that is not possible, local authorities and their corporate parenting partners should have alternative emergency options in place, which properly take account - and seek to address - care leavers' vulnerability. All young people make mistakes, and care leavers (lacking both skills and support networks) are more likely than most to encounter difficulties with their accommodation. Families provide a safety net for other young people, so the corporate family (through the services they provide or purchase) must offer something equivalent for care leavers. Securing accommodation for a care leaver does not constitute a discharge of a CPPs duty towards these young people; CPPs, as corporate parents, must repeatedly do what they can to make positive outcomes achievable.

"Moving into independence is about more than simply finding a roof. Corporate parents will want to satisfy themselves that young people leaving care have the necessary life skills and confidence to cope with independent living and the supports they need to sustain the move must be in place." [42]

60. All Housing Protocols for Care Leavers should recognise that care leavers represent a complex and vulnerable group. However some care leavers will require a significant level of support, and this must be planned for and included in the Protocol. Young people with complex needs, for instance, or those who have experienced periods in secure settings, will need to be fully assessed in relation to their presenting and future needs. [43]


61. CPPs will want to ensure that the roles and responsibilities of each corporate parenting partner - as well as the processes and procedures for working together - are explicit, understood and agreed. More specifically, corporate parents should make sure that their specific involvement in preparing or supporting a care leaver (into an accommodation option) is clear to both the young person and staff at all levels of the organisation.

62. The Housing Protocol should also be explicit about which organisation (or department) is financially responsible for providing a service to a care leaver. Clear agreement among all parties (evidenced in the protocol) should avoid the unnecessary delays (in providing a service) which can impact negatively on care leavers.

Extract from Care Leaver Protocol
North Ayrshire Council

Rent costs for Care leavers under the age of 18 will be provided by Throughcare. This is paid via Inter departmental transfer. Throughcare will advise appropriate personnel within Housing Finance of those clients to whom this applies. For young people to which Throughcare have no statutory responsibility, assistance will be given to completing Housing Benefit application forms.

Initial resettlement support will be provided by the Throughcare team to assist the young person set up their tenancy and develop their independent living skills. Any requirement for on-going or additional support identified will be provided or sourced by Throughcare services.

Where issues arise within the tenancy, Throughcare will liaise with the Local Housing Office/ RSL to try to resolve these issues.

63. CPPs may wish to establish a formal joint-agency group, to facilitate more effective and efficient partnership working. An example of one such group is illustrated in the example below.

Youth Housing Support Group
South Ayrshire Council

The Youth Housing Support Group ( YHSA) provides the opportunity for professionals to share information, highlight concerns and issues, monitor changes in circumstances, respond to crisis situations and identify gaps in service delivery which informs future strategic planning.

The YHSA is a multi-disciplinary group which meets fortnightly to assess, monitor and review young people in housing need. Attendees Include:

  • Throughcare Staff
  • Children & Family SW's
  • Homeless Strategy Officer
  • Housing Service
  • Quarriers Housing Project & Support
  • Skills Towards Employment Project ( STEP)
  • Youth Support Team

64. Effective partnership working is based on clarity of role, responsibilities and expectations. All organisations involved in a CPP will want to ensure that their staff are aware of the potential issues and complexities involved in supporting care leavers in their transition to adulthood; and the importance of providing that support.

65. As important as it is for partner agencies to have clarity over their individual responsibilities, it is important that the young person remains at the centre of planning and support arrangements. This priority should be reflected explicitly in the Housing Protocol. Further details about how to involve service users in planning housing options is available from Scottish Homelessness Involvement and Empowerment Network.

66. CPPs will also want to ensure that all corporate parenting partners continue to work together throughout the transition, and for as long as is needed after the transition has been made. Frequent consultation with the young person - and between relevant agencies - will help determine if the needs of their care leaver are being met.

67. As placements of looked after children and young people by one local authority into another local authority area has been highlighted as an issue of particular difficulty - especially when the placement is coming to a close - corporate parents must ensure that effective cross-local authority arrangements are in place, which take into account access to local accommodation and housing options.

68. The relevant organisations involved in planning and implementing a Housing Protocols for Care Leavers are: local authority departments, health services, educational establishments, criminal justice services (including the Scottish Prison Service), third sector and voluntary organisations, and Registered Social Landlords. It is proposed that further information on the responsibilities and duties of corporate parents will be contained within the Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill. [44]

Extract from Protocol
Perth and Kinross Council

Lead officers from each service with responsibility for implementation of this protocol have a collective responsibility to ensure that staff within each service are aware of the protocol, its operation and intended outcomes. In addition lead officers have a responsibility to ensure that staff delivering services to young persons through the protocol receive the required training to ensure its effective implementation. This will be achieved through:

  • Staff briefings
  • Awareness raising sessions
  • Staff training
  • Staff feedback

Information sharing

69. Critical to effective partnership working is efficient and proportionate information sharing. CPPs will want to ensure that systems, processes and procedures are in place to support the sharing of information between relevant corporate parenting partners. These procedures should be detailed in the Housing Protocol.


70. Community Planning Partners will want to ensure that this guidance is implemented correctly and consistently by establishing appropriate procedures for monitoring and recording progress across a range of relevant outcome indicators. This should not necessitate significant changes in existing systems; statistical information to inform the development of housing options protocols is already provided through the recording by local authorities of the care background of those applying as homeless. New statistical recording of those found to be unintentionally homeless and assessed as needing housing support was introduced during 2013. [45]

71. As corporate parents, CPPs will also want to ensure that they record and report on key accommodation and housing outcomes for their care leavers, such as: the age at which young people seek to access accommodation and housing; their initial and subsequent housing outcomes; and accommodation and housing sustainment outcomes.

Extract from Protocol
Orkney Council

It is vital that both the Department of Community Social Services and the Housing Division monitor key aspects of this protocol to determine the effectiveness of this approach. This information will be used to identify any areas where the service could be improved and to determine whether this approach assists young people leaving care to sustain a tenancy in the future.

  • No of young people leaving care by age and housing outcome;
  • The above in relation to equalities criteria;
  • No of young people leaving care who are housed in permanent accommodation from outset, by age
  • No of young people leaving care who are housed in Camoran's Independent Living Flat temporarily, by age and housing outcome
  • No of young people leaving care who are housed in Young Person's Supported Accommodation Project by age and housing outcome
  • No of support packages successfully delivered;
  • No of young people who have previously been looked after who have difficulty in sustaining a tenancy ( e.g. rent arrears, ASB) by age and housing history

Extract from Care Leaver Protocol
North Ayrshire Council

The protocol development group will have responsibility for monitoring its operation. The group should meet quarterly for the first year, then six monthly thereafter. Membership of the group includes the Throughcare Team Leader, Temporary Accommodation Manager, Local Area Housing Manager, Homeless Assessment Prevention and Advice Officer ( HAPA), and the Common Housing Register Manager. The group will consider:

  • Progress of protocol
  • Temporary Accommodation and support options outcomes
  • Mainstream accommodation sustainability outcomes
  • Development of a performance management framework to monitor protocol effectiveness

A review of the protocol will be undertaken at the end of the first year of implementation and amendments will be made as necessary depending on issues arising.

72. Local authorities and their corporate parenting / community planning partners will want to ensure that the principles and procedures outlined within this guidance are reflected in their Housing Protocol for Care Leavers. All agencies will also want to demonstrate that that their approach effectively facilitates and supports care leavers' transition to adulthood and interdependent living.


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