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Housing (Young People)

Volume 407: debated on Thursday 19 June 2003

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To ask the Deputy Prime Minister, what advice he provides on obtaining housing for young people in housing need; and if he will make a statement. [113563]

Under the homelessness legislation local authorities have a duty to provide advice and assistance about homelessness arid the prevention of homelessness. This service must be available free of charge to anyone in their district, including young people in housing need. Last year, the Government extended the groups who have a priority need for accommodation under the legislation. The new groups include a number of young homeless people, including 16 and 17-year-olds, care leavers aged 18 to 20 and people over 20 who are vulnerable as a result of having been in care (except those for whom local social services authorities have responsibility).Through the July 2002 Homelessness Code of Guidance for Local Authorities, my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister issued guidance to housing authorities about discharging their duties under the homelessness legislation. The guidance emphasises that, in dealing with 16 and 17-year-olds who may have left home because of a temporary breakdown in their relationship with their family, local authorities should consider reconciliation with the family as a first response. It also highlights the fact that many young homeless applicants, particularly 16 and 17-year olds who are homeless and estranged from their family, will be vulnerable and in need of support. The guidelines also make it clear that housing authorities will need to recognise that accommodation solutions for this client group are likely to be unsuccessful if the necessary support is not provided and close liaison with social services and the Supporting People team will be essential.Advice on specialist services for homeless young people is also included in "Homelessness Strategies—A good practice handbook" issued by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister in March 2002.Specialist Personal Advisers in the Connexions Service also play a key role in ensuring that those under 20 in housing need are linked into housing advice services. They should also advise other Personal Advisers working with young people in housing need. The former Rough Sleepers Unit worked closely with the Connexions Service to develop the "Working together" guidance highlighting the strategic links that the Connexions Service should make with local authority homelessness strategies and voluntary agencies working with young people in providing effective housing advice.The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister funds Shelter's National Homelessness Advice Service (NHAS). NHAS is a secondary advice and support service provided by Shelter in partnership with the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux and has been supported by Government since it was established in 1990. In addition, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister funds agencies such as Alone in London and Centrepoint who work with young people, to promote family mediation, re-establish contact and negotiate a return home or respite care.