What if I am being referred to social services?
If you are homeless and you apply to the council housing department for help, it may refer you to social services for assistance. This section explains when and how the council might try to get social services involved, and what sort of help social services may be able to offer.
In some areas the council housing department and social services are part of the same council (known as ‘unitary authorities’). In other areas, social services may be part of the county council while the housing department is part of the city, district or borough council.
When should the council get social services involved?
The council housing department might send you to social services because it has decided it cannot help you, or because it thinks social services can provide more appropriate help (e.g. if you have difficulty living independently). Social services are under a duty to promote the well-being of people who need care and support. This could include people who:
- are under 18
- have left care (or are about to do so)
- are responsible for dependent children
- are disabled, ill or elderly
- care for people who are disabled, ill or elderly.
Every council should have set procedures for referring people between housing and social services. This should avoid people being passed between housing and social services without either department taking responsibility. However, it does sometimes happen that people are passed between departments. If this happens to you, get advice.
How can social services help?
The type of help that social services may offer can vary widely but can be limited. It will depend on your particular circumstances and needs.
Children and young people
Social services should work to promote the well-being of any person aged under 18 who is ‘in need of care and support’. If you are homeless and aged under 18, social services should consider you to be in need of care and support, should carry out a needs assessment and provide appropriate help depending on your needs.
The type of care and support social services can provide can vary and depends on your needs. They might:
- provide accommodation for you themselves
- help you to raise money for a deposit on a private rented place
- provide financial support.
If you are homeless, 16 or 17 years old and have been in care, social services usually has to provide you with accommodation and financial support until you are 18.
Families with children
Where the whole family asks social services for help, social services only have a duty towards the children and young people in the family (unless the adults have special needs). However, they should aim to help the young person remain with the family. This means that they can provide accommodation for the whole family. Whether they do this or not depends upon them balancing your needs with the demands upon them to help others. If social services decide not to help the whole family they may instead offer to help the children only by providing accommodation in a care home. If this happens, get advice immediately.
People who are ill, disabled or elderly
If you are ill, disabled or elderly and you are homeless, social services should consider you to be ‘in need of care and attention’ and carry out a needs assessment on you. The type of help that they can provide to you will depend on the outcome of that assessment. For example, they might provide accommodation for you themselves or help you to raise money for a deposit on a private rented place.
What if social services won’t help either?
If the council has passed you on to social services, but social services cannot help you in the way that you need, get advice. You may be able to challenge social services by making a complaint, or, in extreme cases, taking legal action. The law about the help that social services has to provide can be very complicated, so getting advice is essential if you are in this situation.
Where can I get help?
If you have applied to the council housing department for help and it has told you that it can’t help but social services might help, get advice immediately. An adviser can inform you of your rights to help from social services and what sort of help they might offer. An adviser should also be able to look into the reasons why the council has come to that decision, and may be able to put arguments to the council on your behalf.