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I don’t have safe or suitable accommodation.

If the place where you live is unsafe, unsuitable, or you have no legal right to be there, you may be considered homeless. You can still be legally homeless even if you are staying with friends or another family for a while. You do not have to be sleeping rough to be homeless.

I am under 16.

If you are under the age of 16 and having serious problems at home, you should contact your local authority’s children’s services department. You can ask a teacher or another person you trust to do this for you.

They will try to help you to sort things out so you can stay at home safely. However, if living at home is too dangerous or is not possible for another reason, they can:

  • arrange for you to live with another family member or adult; or
  • look at other options, including living with a foster family.

I am 16 or 17.

If you are 16 or 17 and homeless, you or somebody you trust should contact children’s services, who will consider whether there is any way you can return home or go to live with another relative.

They cannot force you to go back somewhere you do not feel safe. If it is not safe or possible for you to go home, they must offer you support. They can:

  • Provide emergency accommodation while they look into your case to see if it is safe for you to go home;
  • Decide whether you should be provided with accommodation and come into care as a Looked After Child under section 20 of the Children Act 1989. This will depend on your situation and your wishes; and
  • Assess whether you should be provided with accommodation as a Child in Need under section 17 of the Children Act 1989. This will also depend on your situation and wishes.

You can also request a written copy of your assessment and the decisions made about you, and you can ask someone you trust for advice.

If you’ve asked for accommodation from children’s services and aren’t getting the support you need, you can contact Help at Hand. You can also get advice from Shelter.

I don’t feel safe or cared for at home.

If you are at risk of harm at home, children’s services must offer you protection. Abuse can be physical, sexual, or emotional. Neglect from your caregivers is also a form of abuse. If your carers can’t keep you safe from outside violence (for example from gangs) or from yourself (if you are putting yourself at risk, or self-harming), then children’s services may also need to step in.

In these circumstances, a social worker will complete an assessment and may decide you need a Child Protection Plan, this plan will set out what support you’ll get from professionals to keep you safe and improve your wellbeing.

If you think you need this kind of help, you can tell your teacher or any professionals you know, and they can contact children’s services to request support for you.

If you aren’t getting the help and protection you need from children’s services, you can contact Help at Hand or the NSPCC.

My family and I need support.

Sometimes families need support because they are dealing with challenging situations, for example poor housing, problems with school, or mental or physical health difficulties.

Children’s services can offer you help to access services. They may do this by allocating a social worker to support your family through a Child in Need Plan. A Child In Need plan will describe the support which is being provided to a child and/or family by Children’s Services.

If you think you need help, you can contact children’s services to request an assessment for your family, or you can ask an adult you trust to do this for you.

If you are living with carers who are not your parents, for example under a Special Guardianship Order (this is an order that grants parental responsibility for you to someone who is not your parent) or through private fostering, you could get help from children’s services. This could be money to buy essential things you need, or support with issues like your education or contact with your family.

What is private fostering?

This is when a child under 16 is living with somebody who is not a close relative for more than four weeks, but this has not been formally arranged by children’s services. This could be children who are staying with their friends’ parents because of family breakdown or children who have come from abroad to claim asylum or for education.

If you aren’t getting this help and you need it, you can contact Help at Hand.

I need support with my disability, health, or special educational needs.

I need support with my disability, health, or special educational needs.

If you have a disability or special educational needs, you are entitled to help from your local authority. This could be from the Children with Disabilities Team or the Special Educational Needs (SEN) Team. The local authority should make sure you have the right kind of education and support. You could also get help to access clubs and activities at the weekends, and short breaks if you and your family need this.

If you have special educational needs, the SEN Team should complete an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) for you, which describes all of the support you should receive with your education. Your parents or teachers can contact your school or the local authority to ask for this.

If you have a social worker and feel like you aren’t getting the right help for your disability or special educational needs, you or your parents can contact Help at Hand.

Help at Hand is the Children’s Commissioner’s advice and assistance service for children in care, children who have a social worker or are working with social services, children living away from home and care leavers.

Children, young people, or their advocates can get in touch with Help at Hand for free by phone, website or email. 

Phone us free on

0800 528 0731

email us or send us a message via our online form

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Before you decide to contact us, you might find the answer to your question is already here in our most frequently asked questions. Pick the option that applies to you for more information.

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a voice for teenagers in care and care leavers