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W3C Compliance

6.5.2 Joint Protocol for the Assessment of Housing and Support Needs of Homeless 16/17 Year Olds

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

The purpose of this protocol is to outline the agreed practices, responsibilities and roles within a framework of services for young people who are identified as being homeless or threatened homeless.

This will ensure the appropriate assessment and delivery of services to meet the need of young people. The procedure deals with homeless prevention and joint assessment of 16/17 year olds who are homeless or threatened with homelessness.

RELEVANT CHAPTERS

Single Assessment Guidance

Care Planning for Looked After Children Procedure

RELEVANT GUIDANCE

Merton Council Housing Advice

DCSF, Provision of Accommodation for 16 and 17 Year Old Young People Who May be Homeless and/or Require Accommodation (2010)

AMENDMENT

This chapter was reviewed and amended in May 2017 to reflect the current organisational structure and decision-making.


Contents

1. General Principles
2. What is a Joint Assessment?
3. Who is the Protocol Aimed At?
4. Legal Framework
5. Prevention Focus
6. Procedure for Queries or Disputes
7. Implementation Support

 
Joint Procedure for the Assessment of Housing and Support Needs of Homeless 16 and 17 year olds
1. Principles for the Assessment of Housing and Support Needs
2. Sharing Information
  2.1 How Should Staff Seek the Young Person’s Consent to Share their Information?
  2.2 What Information Needs to be Shared?
3. Suitability of Temporary Accommodation
4. Procedure for Joint Assessment
  4.1 First Point of Contact and Referral
  4.2  Preparation Prior to Joint Assessment
  4.3 Procedure
  4.4 Decisions and Outcomes of Joint Assessment
5. Provision of Accommodation
6. Provision of Support
7. Case Conference Approach
8. Involvement with Youth Offending Team
9. Monitoring
  Appendix 1: Joint Assessment Form


1. General Principles

It is agreed that the following principles are a central plank to this protocol.

  • Homelessness can be prevented through active intervention;
  • We will always endeavour to support children remaining with their families;
  • Young people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness are entitled to have their needs assessed;
  • A home visit should be undertaken in every case of a potentially homeless 16/17 year old;
  • The appropriateness of mediation (see Merton Council website) should be assessed in every case;
  • Homelessness should be prevented whenever it can.


2. What is a Joint Assessment?

Where there is reason to believe that a young person is/or appears to be threatened with homelessness, an Assessment should be carried out under S17 Children Act. This will be a joint assessment undertaken by a social worker from the 14+ Team and a Housing officer and will ensure a full understanding of the young person’s needs and their family and environmental circumstances.

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 all but exceptional circumstances, a home visit should be undertaken as part of the assessment process.

The conclusion of an assessment carried out of a young person of 16 and 17 presenting as homeless must be formally recorded. The form must be completed at all times (see Appendix 1: Joint Assessment Form). 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.

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 in this instance should include a Child in Need Plan.


3. Who is the Protocol Aimed At?

This document is designed to be an easy to use framework for front line staff. It is recognised that it is difficult to develop detailed procedures that cover every situation and all individual circumstances.

The Homelessness Strategy highlights the importance of homelessness prevention, and minimising placements into expensive temporary accommodation which a young person has not chosen for themselves.

The Commissioning Team of Children Schools and Families and Adult Social Care will continue to commission services which promote individual capacity to sustain independent lives. Services for young people are mainly accommodation based with some floating support services and these will be continued to contribute the wider strategic aims of the Council as well as promoting the “life chances” for young people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.


4. Legal Framework

The Children Act 1989

Section 17 of this Act requires councils to provide appropriate services to a “child in need”. Children in Need are defined as:

  • Children who, unless the services are provided, are unlikely to achieve or maintain or have the opportunity of achieving or maintaining a reasonable standard of health (physical and mental) or development (physical, intellectual, emotional, social or behavioural);
  • Children whose health or development are likely to be significantly impaired or further impaired without the provision of such services;
  • Children who are disabled.

Under Section 17, children and young people are entitled to an assessment as a child in need.

Services may be provided by or facilitated through social services.

The determining factors in making a decision with regarding to accommodation of young people are laid out in the legislation in Section 20 Children Act 1989.

Section 20(1) requires that:

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

  • There being no person who has parental responsibility for him/her;
  • His/her being lost or having been abandoned;
  • The person who has been caring for him being prevented from providing him/her 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 considers is likely to be seriously prejudiced if they do not provide him/her 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 of promote the child’s welfare.

The only exception to this should be if a young person refuses to be looked after by Children’s Social Care after having been given appropriate information about the impact on the now and in the future of a decision not to be provided with accommodation under s20 and therefore be looked after.

Housing Legislation

Part VII of the Housing Act 1996 as amended by the Priority Needs Order 2011 and the Homelessness Order 2002 sets out the homelessness legislation. Housing authorities have a duty to ensure that accommodation is made available to people who are:

  • Eligible for assistance;
  • Homeless or threatened with homelessness;
  • In priority need.

Young people aged 16/17 (who do not fall under s20 Children Act), and care leavers aged 18 – 21 are deemed to be in priority need. When assessing applications for housing assistance from young people under 25, who do not fall into these specific categories of priority need, housing authorities should give careful consideration to the possibility of vulnerability, where, when homeless, the applicant is less able to fend for themselves than an ordinary homeless person, and is likely to suffer detriment in circumstances where a less vulnerable person would be able to cope without harmful effects.


5. Prevention Focus

This protocol recognises that homelessness is damaging to young people’s personal , social and economic development and well being. Where possible, homelessness should be prevented, and young people supported to remain at home (where safe to do so) or leave in a planned and supported manner.

The following scenarios set out the general responses and approaches to young people who seek assistance with housing:

Scenario 1

Homelessness is threatened: the relationship between the child and the householder has broken down.

  • 16/17 year olds should be assisted to remain in the family home if it is safe;
  • Officers should be competent to make an informed judgement about this risk, if necessary following a joint assessment;
  • A home visit will be necessary;
  • Mediation should be used as appropriate. This usually requires both parties to engage;
  • Mediation services need to act as soon as possible.

Scenario 2

Homelessness is threatened: mediation will not work to secure a long term home within the family, but the home is currently available and safe.

  • Negotiate with parents/excluder to allow more time for options to be developed;
  • Assess availability of, and suitability for, supported housing;
  • An assessment should be undertaken under s17 and s20 Children Act 1989;
  • Once satisfied that they are homeless or will be homeless within 28 days, undertake a Joint Assessment – continue to appraise other options e.g. supported housing, relatives, private sector.

Scenario 3

The 16/17 year old is threatened with homelessness and is at risk in the home or is actually homeless and unable to return.

  • An assessment should be undertaken under s17 and s20 Children Act 1989;
  • If the young person refuses accommodation after having been provided with all the appropriate information then a homeless application can be made.

16/17 year olds should not routinely be placed in temporary accommodation awaiting a decision on whether they can return home.


6. Procedure for Queries or Disputes

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 the practitioners should refer the case to their line managers. In the event that the issues cannot be resolved at this level, the Head of Service (Permanence, LAC and Care Leavers) and the Head of Housing Needs and Strategy will be asked to reach agreement.

If any young person is dissatisfied with the manner or outcome of the Joint Assessment procedure, they have the right to complain/appeal through existing complaints and appeals procedures. (See Complaints and Representations.)


7. Implementation Support

The key to implementation of this joint assessment protocol is direct communication between frontline workers and their managers to share information and address any differences at the earliest stage.

To support the implementation of this protocol there will be joint Children’s Service/Housing Authority training on the implementation of this protocol, including information sharing arrangements.



Joint Procedure for the Assessment of Housing and Support Needs of Homeless 16 and 17 year olds


1. Principles for the Assessment of Housing and Support Needs

1.1 This protocol provides a series of definitions and procedures to be followed to ensure the responsibilities for homeless 16 and 17 year olds under the Housing Act 1996 (as amended by the Homelessness Act 2002 and the Children Act 1989 (as amended by Sections 17(6) and 22(1)), the Children Act 2004 and the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000 are appropriately fulfilled.
1.2 It is accepted that for all young peoples welfare to be safeguarded, appropriate packages of accommodation and support is necessary.
1.3 Young people should be involved in discussions and plans for their future. The young person should be consulted and informed of progress with his/her homeless application.
1.4 In assessing the needs of young people for accommodation and support, those involved in that process must take account of the special needs and cultural background of the young person.
1.5

Prevention:

  • In all cases when a young person is 16 or 17 years of age and suspected to be homeless or threatened with homelessness a joint assessment will establish whether there is homelessness;
  • In order for homelessness prevention to be effective officers involved in the procedure will be responsible for taking immediate steps to prevent homelessness if they are approached by a young person aged 16/17 who appears to be threatened with homelessness. A minimum response would be referral to family mediation to 16/17 year olds;
  • The Joint Assessment Officer may establish it is not considered that temporary accommodation is necessary because they consider the young person is still able to live at home. In these cases the local authority should be able to demonstrate that they have carried out an assessment if the young person remains at home. Children’s Social Care should cooperate in the provision of information to inform this assessment;
  • Mediation and support for the family may be required and Children’s Social Care should ensure these services are provided as far as they are able given local priorities.

Temporary Accommodation may be provided to allow time for family mediation to repair the breakdown in the relationship. If temporary accommodation is provided, mediation with family members should begin immediately. However, immediate provision of temporary accommodation to a young person can adversely affect their chances of subsequent reconciliation and resettlement with family members. This may be because the family believes the local authority has taken responsibility for the young person or because they believe the young person or because they believe the young person has been found housing and can manage independently. It is therefore considered that in most cases reconciliation with family members offers the best outcome for young people and the chance of a planned move to independence. Most 16/17 year olds do not manage well in tenancies without intensive support – this support may not be readily available.

Where a young person is only able to remain (or return) home for a limited period, a planned move to appropriate supported accommodation (or into the private rented sector with support) should be explored as a prevention option.

When a 16/17 year old is placed in temporary accommodation prevention activities should commence by the next working day.


2. Sharing Information

2.1 How Should Staff Seek the Young Person’s Consent to Share their Information?

Officers should establish from the young person whether they have had any prior involvement or current involvement with Children’s Services.

Where the young person has had prior involvement with children’s services and can recall the name of the Social Worker, officers should ask the young person for their consent to contact that Social Worker for information about them.

2.2 What Information Needs to be Shared?

Officers should inform the young person they require the following information for their assessment including a risk assessment as follows:

  1. When the case opened (and closed where appropriate)?
  2. What are the basic issues in relation to Children’s Social Care involvement (or prior involvement) with the young person?
  3. Does the young person pose a known risk to themselves or others?
  4. Are there any issues concerning adults in the household that we should be aware of?
  5. Has the young person ever been in care?
  6. Has a Common/Initial/Single Assessment been completed?
  7. What involvement from Children’s Social Care and support is the family receiving (or did receive)?
  8. Are any other agencies known to be involved with the young person?
  9. Are there any other family members who may be able to provide a period of accommodation?

Children’s Social Care staff should provide the information requested to assist officers.


3. Suitability of Temporary Accommodation

The provision of bed and breakfast accommodation to homeless 16 and 17 year olds is considered to be inappropriate for all but short term emergency placements. In the absence of suitable temporary accommodation (e.g. hostel, night stop, temporary housing) Housing will undertake to provide suitable accommodation as soon as an appropriate vacancy arises.


4. Procedure for Joint Assessment

4.1 First Point of Contact and Referral

The initial point of contact will be an officer/social worker who is located in the Civic Centre any front line service including Customer Relations teams.

A joint assessment will take place within 7 days. A single assessment will be completed within maximum of 35 days.

The joint assessment will consist of an officer from housing and from Children’s Services, the young person and any other appropriate adult requested by the young person.

4.2 Preparation Prior to Joint Assessment

Children’s Services and Housing should each gather information relating to the young person from their own database. If other agencies are known to be involved with the young person a request should be made by either housing or Children’s Services for information regarding support needs.

4.3 Procedure

A joint assessment form should be completed (see Appendix 1: Joint Assessment Form). Present at the assessment should be appropriate staff from Children’s Services, Housing, and the young person with any advocate or representative they wish to support them.

Note: this form should not be used as a checklist. Open questions need to be asked to determine the full circumstances and additional notes will be necessary.

As well as the discussions and information provided during the assessment meeting, the assessment should include information gathered through home visits, and any feedback from mediation or other support services working with the young person and/or their family.

The statutory assessments that Children’s Services and Housing are required to make under the relevant legislation should be completed during the assessment interview.

In addition to their statutory assessments, both agencies should consider what other services can be provided to the young person e.g. tenancy support, ongoing mediation.

If it is likely the young person may be found intentionally homeless, agreement should be reached about what accommodation and assistance can be made available jointly by Children’s Services and Housing, and which voluntary agencies may be involved in delivering these services.

Housing will also decide whether the young person has a connection to the local authority area.

4.4 Decisions and Outcomes of Joint Assessment

The conclusion of an assessment carried out of a young person of 16 and 17 presenting as homeless must be formally recorded. The form must be completed at all times (see Appendix 1: Joint Assessment Form). 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.

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 in this instance should include a Child in Need Plan.


5. Provision of Accommodation

Children’s 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, or other types of supported accommodation. Children’s Social Care will work with Housing Services to provide a range of options.

The choice of placement will be dependent upon the outcome of the assessment of the young person’s needs.

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 the support of 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.

Such accommodation should bear in mind the needs of a young person in their transition to adulthood.


6. Provision of Support

All 16/17 year olds who are accommodated under s20 will have a Needs Assessment undertaken which will feed into a Pathway Plan. The Pathway Plan will be reviewed every 6 months. The Pathway Plan should include details about the kind of support that the young person will receive to achieve the best outcomes.

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 in this instance should include a Child in Need Plan.


7. Case Conference Approach

Timely identification of emerging problems and co-ordination of support services are key to preventing homelessness and will be essential to avoiding repeat homelessness and the breakdown of accommodation arrangements.

Regular multi-agency meetings (including as a minimum social care and housing) should review the progress and ongoing support needs of the young person.

Case references should consider:

  • What support is already in place;
  • The young person’s willingness to engage;
  • Identification of additional support needed;
  • Contributing factors;
  • Ascertaining any changes in the young person’s behaviour to receiving support and making changes;
  • Providing a “chance to return” – moving from temporary (or failed settled) accommodation to a more supported environment where they can develop the personal and practical life skills needed for independence, avoiding an intentionality decision;
  • Agreeing actions required to safeguard the welfare of a young person if a Discharge of Duty decision is reached.


8. Involvement with Youth Offending Team

8.1 The Youth Offending Team (YOT) will provide information and assistance to officers in the Children’s Social Care and Housing Needs a undertaking assessments where the young person has current involvement with the YOT.
8.2 The member of staff in the YOT, who is supervising the young person and therefore knows the young person best, will be the point of liaison.
8.3 Where there is deemed to be a need for some financial assistance, this will be provided by the YOT. Where it becomes apparent that the welfare of the young person could be deemed to a seriously prejudiced within the meaning of Section 20(3) of the Children Act 1989, and it appears that Children’s Services child placement resources may be required, then the relevant Children’s Services manager or duty officer will be contacted as part of the joint assessment process.
8.4 The YOT will continue to supervise the young person for the duration of any statutory order. Where the young person appears to have continuing needs YOT will liaise with local partner agencies in order to refer the young person to the relevant agency/s.


9. Monitoring

Regular statistics will be compiled and a regular liaison meeting convened by the parties to this procedure to monitor their effectiveness in practice.

A local authority has to undertake the same enquiries for someone who is threatened with homelessness as someone who is actually homeless. Someone is threatened with homelessness when they will be homeless within 28 days, e.g. when an order for possession of their property has been made and it expires within 28 days. If the local authority does not think the person will actually be homeless e.g. because they believe they can do something to prevent the homelessness (for instance mediate to prevent eviction by relatives), they may not do the full assessment under s17/20 Children Act 1989. This would be in exceptional circumstances as in most cases an assessment to inform a Child in Need Plan would be considered good practice.


Appendix 1: Joint Assessment Form

Click here to view Appendix 1: Joint Assessment Form.

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