Your accommodation as a care leaver

We have a duty to ensure that you live in suitable accommodation between the ages of 18 to 21. Your local district and borough hold the overall responsibility to provide housing to care leavers. Your personal adviser (PA) will support you in speaking to your local housing department to understand your options around independent housing.

We know that leaving care and moving into independent accommodation can feel lonely and isolating. Please remember that we are here to support you and want to do so. You can contact your PA for advice or support whilst living independently.

There are different types of housing available to you. Your PA will discuss your options with you when you are approaching independent living. Your PA will visit you at your accommodation to check that it is suitable and that you are doing okay.

Below are some of the options you have on where you might live:

You may also hear about Universal Credit (UC). This is a payment you may be able to receive to help with your living costs. It's paid monthly - or twice a month for some people in Scotland. You may be able to get it if you're on a low income, out of work or you cannot work. We have included a section about UC further down this page.

Care leavers in Surrey are now able to apply for council tax relief, a new scheme which offers up to 100% council tax discounts to care leavers living in Surrey. For more information, visit the 'your financial support and entitlements page'.

Staying put

If you are living with foster carers, you may want to stay with them after you are 18 – this called 'staying put'. If you would like to stay living with your foster carer and everyone agrees to that plan, you can remain with them until you are 21 or 25 if you are in full time education.

You can, of course, move out to live independently once you are ready. In 'staying put', you will be more independent than when you were in foster care, but you will still need to keep to the house rules. Your 'staying put' carers will continue to support you and help you develop your independence skills. You will need to pay rent either from your wages if you are working, or from universal credit (UC). You will have a written staying put agreement which includes a tenancy agreement, as you will be a lodger in the carers' home.

Supported accommodation

This is accommodation where you are provided with independent accommodation but can get extra help and support from staff. This is often a good way to help you prepare for living independently.

Supported accommodation is usually shared with others but with your own room. Some have full time staff on site and others where keyworkers visit regularly but no staff live there. As with any adult accommodation, you will be expected to abide by the rules or risk losing the accommodation.

Supported lodgings

You can choose to live in supported lodgings. This means you would have your own room in someone's house and share the kitchen, living room and bathroom. Supported lodgings may be with a family, a single person or a couple. Most supported lodgings carers work outside the home, but some are home-based. They will offer support and guidance to help you towards independence. The level of support offered depends on what you need.

You will be a lodger in the supported lodgings carer's home, but most supported lodgings carers will invite you to be part of the family if you would like that or if you don't want that, you can live more independently with the security of knowing there is someone living alongside you to support you when needed.

Private-rented accommodation

If you have good independence skills, you may decide to rent from a private landlord. Your PA can support you with this and help you check out properties and tenancy agreements. Private rented will usually be shared accommodation and can be a good option if you have a few friends you would like to share with. You would pay the rent from your wages if you are working or from UC. As a care leaver, until your 22nd birthday you can claim the one-bedroom rate for UC even if you are living in shared accommodation. If you want to remain there after your 22nd birthday you will have to make up the difference on the rent, so it is often sensible to find accommodation where the rent can be covered by the shared housing rate. Your PA can help you work this out.

Social housing

The Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 states that for any Care Leaver living in a Local Authority that is both a county and has districts and boroughs such as Surrey, the Care Leaver's local connection applies to all of the districts and boroughs within that County and not only the district and borough that the Care Leaver originates from or is currently living in.

This means that you can register for social housing at any local council in Surrey. For more information, please contact your PA. It may take some years to gain a property so your social worker will help you to apply when they complete the pathway plan with you. This is usually a secure tenancy and a reasonable rent and is your own accommodation.

Local district and boroughs will want to know that you are ready to live independently and have evidence that you have previously held a tenancy and have been a good tenant and paid your rent.

Going home (birth family)

If you'd like to move back in with your birth family, speak to your social worker or PA.

Universal credit

As you begin living more independently, you may hear about Universal Credit (UC). This is financial support you will receive from the government if you are on a low income or unemployed. You can apply online for Universal Credit on the GOV.UK website

UC replaces some of the benefits below which you might have previously heard of:

  • Child tax credit
  • Housing benefit
  • Income support
  • income-based jobseeker's allowance (JSA)
  • income-related employment and support allowance (ESA)
  • Working tax credit.

These are now called legacy benefits.

You might be able to claim UC if:

  • you're currently out of work, in-between jobs or on a low income
  • you're aged 18 or over, however depending on circumstances, young people aged 16 or 17 may still be able to claim
  • you and your partner have less than £16,000 in savings.

There are some situations where you will be able to claim UC if you're 16 or 17-years-old as well as if you're studying. This all depends on your circumstances, please speak to your PA as they will be able to help you apply for UC.

Sophie's story

"When it came to leaving care and living independently, I was very supported. By the age of 17 I was referred to a service called the Moving On Project.

The Moving On team helped me choose the borough that I felt most at home in and supported me for a year in a privately rented flat whilst waiting on the council list before moving in to complete independence. During my time at my first flat; I would be visited by a member of the team once or twice a week, during this time they would help teach me basic skills that I may not have known beforehand like how to bleed a radiator, budget, cook, plaster holes in walls and set up direct debits to make sure my bills were paid properly.

On moving day the Moving On team hired a moving van to help me. I was also allocated £250 to furnish my flat with, they had a list of how much they recommend is spent on each household item you may need but I did find this to be a bit of an old, outdated list. I explained this and they assured me as long as I kept in budget, it wasn't a major issue on how accurate I was to the list.

There would have been many basic things I would have forgot that my flat may need if I didn't have that list such as a shower curtain or mop and bucket and kettle. I had a lot of help from friends with second-hand items for my flat too meaning I could afford to have a comfortable place to have friends over in which I could be proud of.

After my experience with this team I finally felt ready to move on to the next apartment and the Moving On team helped support me for a month while I found my feet in this place."

(Sophie's story is provided by a real care leaver, their name has been changed to protect their identity)