You can ask your local Health & Social Care Trust or the Housing Executive to help you if you are 16 or 17 and have nowhere safe to live.
Whether you ask the Housing Executive or Social Services for help, the same procedure should be followed if you’re 16 or 17.
The Housing Executive or Social Services will speak to your parents or legal guardians to see if it’s possible for you to return home safely. You shouldn’t be made to go back home if
- you were asked to leave and the people you were living with are unwilling to have you back
- there is any risk to your health or wellbeing if you keep living there
- your relationship with the people you were living with has broken down so badly that it can’t be repaired.
What will happen next?
If it is not possible for you to return to your previous address Social Services will carry out an assessment of your needs. The assessment will look at the reasons why you can’t return home and what your housing and support needs are.
The assessment can take up to 10 working days. While it’s going on, Social Services will work with the Housing Executive to find you somewhere safe and suitable to stay until the assessment is finished.
The UNOCINI assessment
The assessment is called a UNOCINI assessment. UNOCINI stands for Understanding the Needs of Children in Northern Ireland.
The assessment is designed to understand your needs .You will be asked specific questions so Social Services can work out what services need to be put in place to meet your needs. The assessment isn’t just about your housing needs, but will look at any other support or assistance that you need too.
Social Services will be responsible for providing you with somewhere to live if you are 16 or 17 and
- you don’t have anywhere to live or
- it is not safe or suitable for you to return where you were previously living or
- your parent or guardian refuses to let you return.
As part of the assessment, Social Services will check if you can safely return to your most recent home.
Getting accommodation from social services
If the UNOCINI assessment shows that you are homeless, you should be seen as a “child in need” and Social Services will find you suitable accommodation.
The Trust will ask what your feelings are about where you would like to live and will take these into account when deciding what is suitable. They will consider where you go to school or work and where your support networks are.
Talk to your social worker about any preferences you have about where or with whom you’d like to live. If it is safe and suitable, they may agree to allow you to live with someone you already know.
What else will Social Services have to help with?
If Social Services provide you with accommodation and other support after the assessment of your needs and circumstances you will be classed as a “looked after child”. Your social worker will explain what it means to be “looked after”. If you’d rather speak to someone independent about this, talk to VOYPIC or CHNI.
The Trust will carry out an assessment of your needs if you are a looked after child. This helps them work out what advice, assistance and support you will need while you are preparing to move on from the care system.
The Trust has ongoing responsibilities to anyone who is a looked after child. These usually end once you’re 21, but can last longer if you’re still in full-time education when you turn 21.
Extra help if you’ve been in care for more than 13 weeks
If you’ve spent more than 13 weeks in total in care since your 14th birthday and you were in care at any point since turning 16, the Trust will arrange for you to have a personal adviser. This adviser will help you design your Pathway Plan. The pathway plan will include:
- details of what education, training or employment you’d like to do
- information about your health and development
- details of your relationships with family and friends and what help they can give you
- help with budgeting, including an assessment of how much money you’ll need to live on, how you plan on managing your money and what the Trust will do to support you financially.
Once you turn 18 you will keep following your pathway plan and stay in touch with your personal adviser. The Trust will still have a responsibility to help you with certain smaller expenses, depending on your personal circumstances, but won’t be responsible for paying for your housing anymore. If you aren’t working, you can apply for benefits to help with your rent.
If you’re a young person who is or has been looked after and you’d like to talk to someone about what this means, speak to VOYPIC. VOYPIC is a charity that provides advice, assistance and mentoring to young people who have been in care.