Can my boyfriend, aged 17, get housing because his parents are abusing him?

My boyfriend's 17 and is having a really rough time at home. He is subject to occasional physical abuse, and his parents heavily restrict what he is allowed to do outside of the house, like going out or using public transport. If he moved out, he would have to support himself. What benefits could he receive and is there anything his parents can do to stop him?

If your boyfriend’s parents are violent towards him, he should get help as soon as possible from a local advice agency. If he would like to talk through his feelings confidentially first, he can call Childline a telephone line for people up to the age of 19 on 0800 1111.

Usually, if someone is 16 or 17 years old and they want to leave home, they will need their parent or guardian’s permission. However, if your boyfriend leaves home without permission, he’s unlikely to be ordered back home unless he’s in danger.

He could apply as homeless if he is on the streets or has somewhere to live that is not suitable, for example living somewhere where there is violence or abuse against him. To get help, the council will need to decide that he is homeless and that there is nowhere for him to go. A homeless application is made to the housing department of his local council.

The council have to check a range of issues before deciding what help to give someone. To get help, the council will need to decide that he is in a priority need category – most young people aged 16 and 17 are in priority need. There are exceptions for those who are not eligible due to immigration status or those who have been in care previously. If he has been in care, it could be social services that have responsibility for helping him.

If the council decide that he is homeless, in a priority need category and has not made himself homeless deliberately, then it should secure housing for him. This could be in a hostel or similar project for young people. There may be special schemes in your area for young people called foyers.

He may also be entitled to help from the social services department of the council. This help should be available if the council decides he is a ‘child in need’. The law doesn’t say exactly what help social services should give young people and different councils have different rules. It will depend on his personal situation, what is available in his area and how much it costs. He should be given a range of services to help him with any problems he’s experiencing. Social services help for young people can include different types of support, from help finding housing, to employment advice, to emotional support.

If he’s not getting on with his parents and there is no risk of violence, he may be able to get help to sort out the problems at home. If nothing can be done, he’ll need to think carefully about what may be available and what he can afford.

Another option is to put his name down on the council waiting list. This isn’t the same as making a homeless application. As councils don’t work on a ‘first come, first served’ basis, he could be waiting a while for a place. It’s worth getting on it though, as many councils will give extra points the longer he’s on it. He should also get extra points or preference if he’s applied as homeless.

He could also put his name down on any housing association waiting lists in the area. Sometimes they run a joint list with the council, but some will have their own.

He could look for somewhere to rent privately through estate agents or lettings agencies, advertisements in local newspapers or cards in local shop windows. He can’t legally hold a tenancy until he’s 18, but someone can hold the tenancy on trust for him until he’s 18. Also, if he’s under 18, a landlord may require a guarantor who would be liable for the rent if he failed to pay it. If he uses an agency, they will usually charge fees for things such as references and administration charges.

Renting privately can be quite expensive if he’s on a low income. When he finds somewhere to rent, he may be eligible for housing benefit. This helps pay the rent. Because he’s under 25 then the amount he gets will usually be restricted to the average amount for a single room in a shared house in his area, unless he fits into certain categories, for example if he has a child. Other restrictions could be made, for example if the rent is considered too expensive. He will have to make up any difference between housing benefit and rent himself. If he’s studying on a non-advanced course, for example for GCSEs or A-levels, then he can claim housing benefit until his 19th birthday.

If he doesn’t have any money for a deposit, there may be a scheme in his area that can help. He may also be entitled to other help in paying for somewhere to live. He should consider speaking to a benefits adviser about his financial situation because benefit rules are very complicated. The Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) can deal with most benefits issues. He will need to work out whether there are any other benefits that he’ll be entitled to if he no longer lives with his parents, and whether he’ll be eligible to claim housing benefit.

Your boyfriend would benefit from the help of an adviser. He could try to find a local advice agency to find out more about leaving home for the first time. If he would like to talk to someone urgently about his options he could call Shelter’s free national helpline on 0808 800 4444.

The CAB can deal with most benefit issues. He will need to work out whether there are any other benefits that he’ll be entitled to if he no longer lives with his parents, and whether he’ll be eligible to claim housing benefit.

Answered by Shelter on 06-Mar-2014

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