Help at Hand is the Children’s Commissioner’s advice and assistance service for children in care, children living away from home, children with a social worker and care leavers. Care leavers contact Help at Hand about a range of issues but the most frequent concern is around housing. Two recent examples of how Help at Hand have assisted care leavers with housing concerns are set out below:
Isaac is a 19-year old care leaver who has epilepsy. His Leaving Care Service was unable to find suitable long-term accommodation for him and provided a number of unstable placements while he was bidding for permanent social housing. The last of these was accommodation with shared facilities and a bathroom which was not safe for Isaac’s epilepsy. It was also almost two hours from his college and this was making it difficult for him to attend, which was frustrating as he is ambitious for his future. Despite being a care leaver with a medical condition, living in unsuitable accommodation, the local authority did not give Isaac the highest priority on its bidding system, meaning he was likely to wait many years for social housing.
Help at Hand intervened and reminded the local authority of its responsibility to ensure Isaac has safe, suitable housing. This took several months, during which time Isaac suffered injuries after a seizure in his property. His mental health declined significantly as a result of the stress caused by his housing situation. Finally, given the urgency of Isaac’s situation, the local authority’s Leaving Care Service and Housing Service agreed to work together and he was made a direct offer of a permanent council flat, which is suitable for his needs and close to his college and GP. Isaac was incredibly relieved, although he is frustrated that he had to reach a crisis for this to happen and knows many other care leavers in his situation have not had a positive outcome.
Jane is pregnant and a care leaver. Her advocate got in touch with Help at Hand to escalate her concerns that the Local Authority were failing to find her appropriate accommodation. Jane was told she must leave her supported accommodation as the leaving care team would no longer subsidise it. However, social housing had not offered suitable accommodation for her to move into leaving her fearful that she would be homeless. Help at Hand intervened and made representations to the Local Authority and Jane was allowed to stay in her supported accommodation until suitable social housing was identified. Jane is now happy and in her new home.
Care leavers, children or their advocates can contact Help at Hand by calling 0800 528 0731, emailing [email protected], or through our online form: Get in touch | Children’s Commissioner for England (childrenscommissioner.gov.uk)