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Housing advice for Northern Ireland

Help from social services

Although the Housing Executive is mainly responsible for helping homeless people, some people can get help from Social Services. Social services may have to help if you are homeless and

  • you are under 18
  • you are leaving care or you’re under 21 and have previously been in care
  • you are old
  • you have physical or mental health problems
  • you have problems with drug or alcohol dependency
  • you have a disability
  • you’re responsible for a child under 16
  • you’re an asylum seeker under 18 and you have noone to look after you
  • you are seeking asylum
  • you have overstayed your visa, have health problems and are destitute.

Unless you’re under 18, you should go to the Housing Executive first for help with homelessness.

How can Social Services help?

The law doesn’t say exactly what social services have to do to help homeless people.  You may be offered accommodation or money to help pay for accommodation.  The level of help you get usually depends on your personal circumstances, the cost of any help and what services are available in your area.

Parents are often worried about contacting Social Services because of the stigma attached.  Social Services can only take children away from their parents if there is a risk to the child.  In accommodation offered by Social Services parents can sometimes be housed separately to their children but this will only happen if you agree to it.

Social Services will usually take your feelings into account when making decisions that affect you unless you’re under 16.  If you’re not happy with how Social Services has treated you or about any of the decisions made in relation to your case, you can make a complaint.

Help for young people and care leavers

Young people, and especially young people leaving care, can be at an increased risk of homelessness and of being exploited because of this.  Social Services and the Housing Executive work together to make sure that any homeless young person gets the help they need.  It can be complicated working out who is responsible for homeless young people but there are arrangements in place to make sure you don’t get lost in the system.

Help for asylum seekers and migrant workers

If you’re seeking asylum you may be entitled to accommodation until a decision has been made on your case.  The Bryson One Stop Service can help you make an application for asylum and can explain the accommodation and support package that the National Asylum Support Service offers.

The MigrationNI website has useful information on what social assistance you may be entitled to if you’ve come to Northern Ireland to live and work.

Complaining about social services

There are six health and social care trusts in Northern Ireland. If you have a complaint, you should inform a staff member in the health and social care trust where you live or were treated.

You must make your complaint within six months of the incident or treatment you are concerned about.You can complain if:

  • the accommodation and services you are offered are not suitable,
  • social services refuse to look into your situation to check whether you are entitled to help.

After you've complained

Before investigating your complaint, the health and social care trust should make sure that you are getting the support you need. The health and social care trust should acknowledge your complaint within two days. The health and social care trust will write with a decision.

The health and social care trust should investigate your complaint and write to you with the decision within four weeks. If you have been waiting longer than four weeks and the health and social trust doesn't explain the reasons for the delay, get advice.

Making a second complaint

If you aren't satisfied with the decision you receive from the health and social care trust, you can make your complaint again. The health and social care trust will look at the complaint again.

The health and social care trust must investigate your second complaint. This does not mean the second decision you receive will be different or in agreement with your complaint. If you exhaust the health and social care trust's process and remain unhappy by the decision, you can make your complaint to the Northern Ireland Ombudsman

Patient and Client Council

If you want to complain about health and social care, you can contact the Patient and Client Council at any time. The council investigates health and social care standards and is independent of government departments and goverment organisations.