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YOUNG CARE LEAVERS NEED HELP TO STAY OFF THE STREETS

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Young people leaving care need a more structured approach to be taken to their housing needs, as they stand a hugel...
Young people leaving care need a more structured approach to be taken to their housing needs, as they stand a hugely disproportionate risk of ending up on the streets, says housing's professional body.

The Chartered Institute of Housing, has urged the government to categorise homeless care leavers under the age of 21 as vulnerable - local authorities would then have a duty to find them accommodation. This is the current situation in Scotland.

The call comes in the institute's response to the Social Exclusion Unit's consultation exercise on rough sleepers. It also points out a number of barriers to young people being able to secure suitable accommodation. In the private sector, these include the high deposits required by landlords and a growing reluctance to take on young and benefit dependant people as tenants. Access to social housing can be hindered by long waiting lists and an unwillingness to grant secure tenancies to people under the age of 18.

Policy Officer from the CIH, Merron Simpson said, 'Although fewer than one percent of all young people spend any length of time in the care of local authorities, care leavers still make up between 20 and 40 per cent of those sleeping rough. Having lived in institutions, care leavers are not always 'ready' to live independently, but there is limited help available to enable them to settle in permanent accommodation.'

The problem has been compounded by a judicial ruling, taken last year, which will end the provision of housing benefit to cover the cost of resettlement.

The CIH is calling for the situation to be resolved quickly as landlords are already being dissuaded from providing resettlement support. It has put forward a proposal to bring in a new benefit (supported housing benefit) to pay for resettlement as well as other types of housing related support, whilst housing benefit continues to cover the rent.

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