5.5 Temporary Accommodation and Transient Lifestyles (Falling through the Net)
A parent's homelessness or placement in temporary accommodation, often at a distance from previous support networks, can result in, or be associated with transient lifestyles.
In these circumstances there is a risk that the family may fall through the net and become disengaged from health, education, social and welfare support systems. There may also be a reduction in previously available family / community support.
Some families in which children are harmed move home frequently and there is a danger that they avoid monitoring or contact with caring agencies through this process. As a result no single agency has a complete picture of the family.
Along with indicators of risk in Recognising Abuse and Neglect Procedure the following circumstances associated with some mobile families are a cause for concern and require consideration of a referral to Children's Social Care:
- Child/ren not registered with a GP for periods of time;
- Child/ren frequently attending A & E rather than engaging with primary health services;
- Child/ren not enrolled at a school (this requires immediate referral to Children Services (Education);
- Persistent non school attendance;
- Information patch worked across a network of agencies with no single agency holding the whole picture of a family history.
Local agencies and professionals, working with children and families where there are outstanding child welfare concerns, must bear in mind that extended non-school attendance, missed appointments, or abortive home visits, may indicate that the family has moved out of the area.
This possibility must also be borne in mind when there are concerns about an unborn child who may suffer future Significant Harm.
Additional procedures about children and families moving across Boundaries are provided in the Children and Families Moving Across Boundaries Procedure and Missing Children Protocol.
The Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 significantly reformed England’s homelessness legislation by placing duties on local authorities to intervene at earlier stages to prevent homelessness in their areas. It added section 213B into the Housing Act 1996, which is a duty on certain public authorities to refer to a housing authority service users they consider are or may be homeless or threatened with homelessness (i.e. it is likely they will become homeless within 56 days).
The duty to refer applies to all social services functions, including early help, leaving care and child protection; and is intended to increase early identification and intervention, which is critical for safeguarding against homelessness. Earlier intervention can help prevent children and young people becoming homeless, and the possibility of them being considered ‘intentionally homeless’ and so not owed a long-term housing duty.
Before making a referral, a public authority must:
- have consent to the referral from the individual
- allow the individual to identify the housing authority in England which they would like the notification to be made to and
- have consent from the individual that their contact details can be supplied so the housing authority can contact them regarding the referral
The referral to a housing authority must include the individual’s name and contact details and the agreed reason for referral (e.g. that the individual is homeless or at risk of homelessness). Further referral information may include:
- whether an individual is already homeless, and if not when they are likely to become homeless
- whether the individual is at risk of rough sleeping on the date the referral is made and if so whether this is imminent
- risk assessment information, considering risks to the individual and to others
- key medical information where relevant
Full guidance can be found in the Homelessness Code of Guidance. Further guidance on how social care and housing authorities should work together to prevent 1617 year olds from becoming homeless, and how the duty to refer should operate in this context, can be found in the ‘Prevention of homelessness and provision of accommodation for 16 and 17 year old young people who may be homeless and/or require accommodation’ guidance.