21 May 2019

The challenge of homelessness faced by Scotland's care experienced young people

Young people leaving care are at a greater risk of homelessness than their peers despite their need for security and the obligations of Scotland's public sector, new analysis has shown.

A new briefing published by CELCIS, the Centre for Excellence for Children's Care and Protection, outlines how young people who have been in care can experience difficulties in securing housing, and explores the official statistical information that is available.

While research consistently highlights that care leavers are more likely than other young people to become homeless or experience housing instability, a lack of reliable data means that the full picture is actually unknown.

A number of factors can combine to make care experienced young people more vulnerable to homelessness including the lack of practical, financial and emotional support and experience to run their own home at a very early stage of adulthood, as well as the challenge of affording rent and managing change.

Fully implementing the Staying Put Scotland Guidance and the Continuing Care duties is central to improving post-care housing and accommodation outcomes in Scotland and the briefing looks what can be done to support care leavers.

Professor Jennifer Davidson, Executive Director of CELCIS, said:

"Having a stable and secure home to live in is not only essential to our wellbeing, it's also a basic human right, affecting our everyday lives and our futures.

"It cannot be right that care experienced young people are at a greater risk of homelessness than their peers and experience this so disproportionately. This is unacceptable and we need to be sure that a range of support and accommodation options genuinely help our young people as they move into adulthood.

"We know that there many ways to help to meet the needs of some young people facing housing issues when they move on from care to more independent living. Strong, positive relationships are essential to growing up healthy and play a big part in supporting all young people through this challenging time.

"One way to reduce a young person's vulnerability to homelessness is to do much more throughout their care journey, whatever form that takes or when it occurs, to ensure their connections to the important people in their lives can be maintained."

Since 2013, Scotland has had in place Housing Options Protocols for Care Leavers. This practical guidance assists Community Planning Partnerships and corporate parents in implementing their duties and responsibilities to their care leavers, along with the principles and philosophy of Staying Put Scotland, to ensure the housing and accommodation needs of care leavers are consistently met to a high standard. These protocols clarify that no care leaver should be required to present as homeless in order to access accommodation, instead there should be a range of suitable options available.

CELCIS is part of the 'A Way Home' coalition group and is working with the Scottish Government and the Rock Trust to facilitate Care Leavers Housing Pathways work.