Leaving care – Housing
Once you reach the age of 18, where will you live?
Once you reach 18 you may want a place of your own. However, even if you’re keen to get out there and make it on your own, you may also feel worried about what you will face. Suddenly you will be responsible for your own wellbeing, your finances and your future. However, there is plenty of help and support available form your social worker or your leaving care personal adviser.
The options available will depend upon your needs, whether you can demonstrate your ability to live independently and the housing available. Work with your social worker or personal adviser to agree on the best of the several options you can consider.
If you are living in foster care, you will be encouraged to stay in that placement for as long as you feel it is the right place for you. This could mean staying there after your 18th birthday in some circumstances, such as if you are finishing your education.
Your foster carer will help you develop and practise essential skills you will need to manage after you leave, such as:
- personal care
- learning to cook
- managing money
- looking after your health
- dealing with official agencies
- preparing for independent living.
Many young people have a close relationship with their foster carers and keep in touch even after they've left. Foster carers can be a real support because they know you.
Supported lodgings are run by a housing association that provides accommodation for young people. They are a good stepping stone on the way to independent living, as you will still live independently but will have adult support if you need it. Supported lodgings are not always in a family-based environment, though – they will normally offer a room to rent and any support that you might need, as decided by you.
This is a good stepping stone to independent living for many young people and can be in a shared living environment, a bedsit or flat. You will always have your own room and will be expected to meet your responsibilities such as paying your bills and contributing towards your rent, if you work. This accommodation is usually managed by a housing association and you will have a housing support worker to support you during your stay. They will help you develop your independent living skills and offer other support, as agreed between you.
Privately rented housing
We do not encourage young people aged 16 or 17 to live in unsupported housing and are unlikely to agree to this plan unless there are exceptional circumstances and a support package in place. For young people aged over 18, these housing options are explored with your social worker or leaving care personal adviser. Privately rented housing can be accessed via lettings schemes, local newspaper ads and cards in shop windows.
It is important to seek advice about how to check out if the property is suitable and safe for you. Make sure you understand your rights and responsibilities in a property, as outlined in your tenancy agreement. We can support you while you settle in, and help with the practical things that need to be sorted out and essential items you need for your accommodation through the Setting Up Home Allowance. For those who are managing their life well and are in education or employment, if we agree the property is suitable, we may be able to help with the deposit and first month's rent.
Accommodation when you are in education, employment and training
Whilst you are in education or working, you may be living in:
- your foster placement
- privately rented housing
- supported accommodation
- in a council tenancy
- or at home.
The support that you receive from us will depend on what is in your pathway plan. You will need to consider the level of responsibility you will have and the demands of your studies and other responsibilities when making your decisions about where you would like to live.
In Oxfordshire we have a small number of one-bedroom council housing for single care leavers aged 18+ who qualify for leaving care services. Please discuss this with your social worker or your leaving care personal adviser to see if you meet the criteria to be nominated – if you do not, they will let you know the reason why. Also, discuss the housing options available from bidding schemes called Choice and Home Based Lettings.