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Housing options if you're leaving care

You’re a care leaver if you’re 16 or over and:

  • you’ve lived in a foster home

  • you’ve lived in a children’s care home

  • social work have helped your family look after you at home

Social work must help you plan for living independently in a new home when you’re leaving care.

If you haven’t been in care but you need to leave home in a crisis, we have guidance on leaving home as a young person.

If you’re under 16 and you have to leave home, call Childline on 0800 1111. Their helpline is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Social work must help you find somewhere to live

You can leave care once you turn 16. You can decide to move out or ask to stay in the home you’ve been living in. You’ll get help from a pathway coordinator and social work, sometimes called social care. You’ll work together on a plan for leaving care, called a pathway plan.

Your pathway plan will include:

  • where you’ll live

  • how you’ll afford rent and living costs

  • whether you'll go to college or university

  • whether you’ll look for a job

  • what support you’ll need to live on your own

  • how the council will help meet your needs, this can be money and practical support

We have guidance on help to pay rent if you’re leaving care.

To create your pathway plan you’ll meet with social work to discuss what you want. You can take a trusted adult with you for support. Your pathway plan should be regularly reviewed to make sure it’s working for you.

If social work are not listening to you

Contact Who Cares Scotland on 0330 107 7540, Monday to Friday between 12pm and 4pm. They can help you with your rights and give you support when dealing with social work.

You can also make a complaint about the council if you’re being treated unfairly by social work.

If you’re going to college or university

When you get offered a place at university or college you'll get information on finding a place to live. We have guidance on your housing options as a student.

You can ask your university or college student services what support they can give you as a care leaver. They could help you apply to hardship funds and care leavers’ grants if you’re worried about money. They can also give you information about services for emotional support and social events.

Your private renting options

If you want to rent privately you can contact local letting agencies and check online on websites like S1 Homes, Rightmove, Zoopla and Gumtree.

You’ll be given a private residential tenancy to sign. These tenancies have strong rights. We have guidance on finding a private rented home.

Checks to make if you want to rent privately

Before you give a prospective landlord any money ask for their:

  • full name

  • address, in the United Kingdom

  • contact number and email address

  • landlord registration number

Most private landlords have to register with the council before they can rent out a property. If they’re not registered this is illegal, do not rent from them. If you’re not sure, check if your landlord should be registered.

If you’re renting from a letting agency they need to be registered, as well as the landlord they’re working for. Search the letting agent register to check they’re on it.

Landlords and letting agents must include their registration numbers on all property adverts.

Going to viewings

Always take someone with you to viewings if you can. A trusted person can help you decide if the place is right for you.

If you go to a viewing alone, let someone know where you’ll be, the landlord’s contact details, and what time you can be expected back.

Make sure to check:

  • whether you would feel safe in the area

  • when the landlord needs someone to move in

  • what the average costs for heating and electricity might be

  • if any costs are included in the rent, such as internet or other utilities

  • any repair issues that need to be fixed, such as faulty windows, electrics or dampness

  • whether its close to public transport and facilities you want to use like shops or the gym

The property must meet the legal repair standard for private tenancies. If there are any outstanding repair issues, ask the landlord to fix them before you move in. Email them when you ask so you have a record.

Your options to rent from the council or a housing association

To get a list of social housing providers contact the council’s housing team. If you’d like help with your applications, ask your pathway co-ordinator to set up a housing options meeting with the council.

Once you apply you’ll be put on the waiting list until a suitable home becomes available.

Some providers might ask you to fill in paper forms and some might allow online applications. We have guidance on applying for social housing.

When a suitable home becomes available you'll be offered a Scottish secure tenancy, which gives you strong rights. Check our guidance on your rights in a Scottish secure tenancy.

The council must help you if you’re homeless

You may be classed as homeless if you have to leave your home. You do not have to be living on the streets to be homeless.

We have guidance on how the council must help you if you’re homeless.

Last updated: 19 January 2023

Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.

This content applies to Scotland only.

Get advice if you're in England