For context, some Local Authorities offer eligible care leavers the chance to bid for a flat and tell them to make at least one bid a week. Some care leavers do not get to see the property before bidding only being sent an image of the front, the number of bedrooms, the postcode, and the rent payable. Some care experienced people have even said they didn’t get to see an image at all.
When I reached 19, I was told by my PA (Personal Advisor) that I was eligible to bid for housing and I was informed to be ready for the next steps towards living independently. The process involved working with my PA to complete the relevant forms and to set me up on the Lewisham home search website (housing option). Then I was left to my own devices, nobody sat down with me or held my hand throughout the process. I felt pressured and found the whole experience quite daunting and complicated at times.
Even if I didn’t think a property was suitable, I was still encouraged to make a bid on it – it’s quite a pressurised system to be in. I found it hard to navigate the system, not knowing the first thing about what would make a good home. I didn’t have a clue about the various parts of the borough or a particular area where I wanted to live. I had minimal communication with my PA, and I had no opportunities to ask any questions about the properties. I would actually say, the system was deaf as well as blind and I was not supported enough for it to be a positive experience.
This was definitely a difficult time for me, I just turned 19 and I successfully bid for a flat. It was at a time when I wasn’t working, and this made my situation worse. If I had a job, I would have had a routine and financial stability. My life at this time was all doom and gloom, I had problems with my confidence and I was depressed. Where was the support?
I understand that a typical PA has around 30 care leavers to manage and why the support provided would therefore be limited. But surely, that shouldn’t be my problem. It’s blind bidding because you don’t get to view a property before you make a bid. I understand that there is a shortage of homes so people may question why care leavers should pick and choose when others on the list are unable to – I think that this rule shouldn’t apply to a care leaver because they are already disadvantaged. I’ve been informed that previously the system allowed you to view properties and a person had three choices available.
Care leavers need a security blanket and support to help them transition to being fully independent. Home, for me, as a care leaver is the most important thing in my life, it’s a place where I feel safe and secure. I consider viewing and choosing my first home an important part of my journey to being fully independent.
Personally, I do think it’s unfair is it to have to bid for a property you don’t have the opportunity to view. I have a right to make an informed choice based on viewing a property which would involve actually viewing a potential property/home. As a care experienced individual who has transferred from looked after child accommodation to full independence, I can say that the transition to finding my own accommodation was extremely challenging.
Although not all Local Authorities operate blind bidding for care leavers, I think that not being able to view a property should not be an option for any care leaver looking for their first home. A standard level of support should be provided to all care leavers navigating the bidding process. Feedback should be gathered from care leavers on how they managed process and this insight used to inform changes.
I can only encourage any care leavers who are going through a daunting process, to reach out for help and ask their PA for more support.