Support for Homeless Single Parents
What support is there available for single parents at risk of becoming homeless?
If you are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless it can be extremely stressful for anyone. If you are a single parent it is even harder.
Single parents with dependent children are classed as having a high priority need. You may qualify for some assistance from the local Council. The Council may be under a legal duty to provide you with emergency accommodation whilst it considers whether it has a longer term duty to rehouse you.
Am I eligible for council support?
The Council will need to assess whether or not you are eligible for assistance. They need to consider whether there is any immigration issue. British Citizens and those with settled immigration status in the UK are usually eligible for assistance.
The council will need to establish how you have become homeless and whether or not you have to leave your current home.
If you are renting privately, they will need to be certain you are not being illegally evicted. If they consider that you have done or failed to do anything which has resulted in you being evicted (such as failing to pay your rent), then you may be at risk of being found "intentionally homeless".
If you think you stand a good chance of being found "unintentionally homeless", you should not move out of your current accommodation until you have found somewhere else to move into or you are evicted, otherwise the council may say it does not have to help you.
The council also need to assess whether you have a local connection with the area – which you will do as long as you have lived there for 6 months out of the last 12, you are employed in ithe area or if you have close family associations in the area. The law on when the council has a duty to provide accommodation is complicated and the process is not straightforward.
The longer term duty is owed to those who pass all the above tests, ie, they are eligible, homeless, have a priority need and are not intentionally homeless. If the full duty is owed, the Council will be legally obliged to offer the applicant temporary accommodation until they find their own housing or are rehoused via the Council’s normal housing register.
If you are leaving your home because of domestic violence, you should be able to access help via the Women’s Aid Helpline. They may be able to refer you to a refuge or a local specialist domestic violence advice service. The 24 hour Domestic Violence helpline is 0808 2000 247.
What if I wanted to rent privately?
Single parents who are at risk of becoming homeless within the next 28 days can get help from their Council to access private rented accommodation. This includes being loaned money for a deposit and rent in advance. If you rent privately, you will only get a fixed maximum amount based on the amount of rooms your household requires, which is known as local housing allowance.
Many private rented tenants have to make up any shortfall themselves or apply for a “discretionary housing payment” if they cannot afford it. However this is normally only paid in the shorter term. You could also consider applying for a crisis loan for the deposit on a property and a budgeting loan for rent in advance which is done via Jobcentre Plus. There may be a local Credit Union in your area which could lend you money for a deposit and rent in advance.
How can I get on the Housing Register?
You should also join your local council’s normal housing register. Their website will have advice on how to apply. You will be prioritised according to your circumstances. Most people are in the lower “bands”. Priority is given to those who are accepted as homeless, fleeing violence, having serious health issues or whose existing accommodation is severely overcrowded.
Am I eligible for Housing Benefit?
You can also apply for housing benefit to help pay the rent. Housing Benefit is paid at a flat rate, set by the Local Authority each month. It is not possible to get more than the flat rate, even if the rent is higher. This is paid in full for Council or Housing Association tenants. Bear in mind that if you get full housing benefit whilst you claim income support, you need to consider whether you will still be able to afford the rent if you begin work again.
What other support and advice services are there?
We recommend you try and get some local personalised advice. Ring the National Shelter Helpline on 0808 800 4444. They can advise you over the phone or find another advice agency in your area.