- As a child, you have the right to be safe at home
- If you’re not being treated properly at home, you should be protected and found somewhere else to live
- If you don’t want to live at home, there are people and organisations that can help you
If you’re under 18, your right is to live with your parents and to be looked after by them while you grow and develop and take advantage of your other rights – rights to education and to healthcare and to have time to be with friends and relax. It’s not always that straightforward. If someone is hurting you at home, or if you’re not getting on with the people you live with, you may not want to live there anymore. You already be living away from home, either in foster care or a children’s home, and you may not want to stay their either.
Your rights means you should have somewhere safe to live, with someone to look after you and to take decisions for you. If you want to leave home for some reason, then the people and organisations responsible for you have to make sure you have somewhere else safe to live. This could be your parents, or it could be social services at your local authority.
Your parents have responsibility for you until you are 18 but once you’re 16, you’re considered old enough to make a decision to move out of home on your own. Your parents can’t do anything to stop you moving out of home. No one like social services will force you to go back home if you leave. If you do leave home when you’re 16 or 17, people (your parents, social workers, teachers) might try to persuade you to go back home if they think it is in your best interests, but no one can make you.
If you’re under 16 and you have somewhere safe to live and your parents agree, you can leave home. If you leave home when you’re younger than 16, and you have nowhere to live, you could be at risk of harm. Your parents, the local authority and the police may try and find you. If the reason why you have left home is because you are being hurt or not looked after properly in some other way, the local authority should make sure you have somewhere safe to live. If you and your parents aren’t getting on, you may be able to get support to talk through the issues you are having and try and sort things out so that you feel better about living at home.
You may not be able to rent somewhere of your own without the help of social services or the housing department, until you are 18. Some landlords may be prepared to let you rent a property provided someone who is over 18 will act as a ‘guarantor’ and signs the paperwork.
If you leave home or run away, you won’t be in trouble with the police. Running away isn’t against the law. The police would be more worried to find out what caused you to run away and whether someone has hurt you.
They will also want to make sure that you are safe and not at risk of harm. If the police find you after you have run away, they can help you stay safe. If you tell them what is happening at home, they can get in touch with other people and organisations that can help you. The police may contact the local authority so that they can work out what is best for you. You can find out more about your rights and what can happen if you aren’t being treated properly at home here.
If you have run away because you are not being looked after properly by your parents or someone who lives at home, or you have been abused or neglected, social services will want to work out what they can do to help you stay safe. They have to do this if they think you need help or protection.
If you’re 16 or 17, you can ask the local authority for somewhere to live. They have to treat you as a priority especially if the reason you have left home is because of the way you are being treated. If you contact the housing team at your local authority, they may also ask social services to check that you are OK and work out if you have any care and support needs. If someone has been treating you badly at home, you can tell the police too. There are also advice and support organisations like Shelter Cymru who can help you.
If you’re under 16, you can ask for help from the local authority or from the police, or from organisations like Shelter Cymru. These organisations will all want to make sure you are safe and can live somewhere where you will be protected from harm.
Until you are 16, your parents have to make sure you have somewhere safe to live. If you are 16 and they ask you to leave home, you probably don’t have an option but to leave, even if you aren’t sure you have somewhere else to go. You could try and understand why your parents have asked you to leave. It might be possible to arrange to see a family counsellor to try and sort things out so that you can stay at home. If you can’t stay at home, the local authority should help you and find somewhere for you to live that’s appropriate for you.