Published on
21 July 2022

For 16-18-year-olds leaving care, finding suitable and affordable accommodation can be a real struggle. But Gap Homes can offer a helping hand.  

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Moving out for the first time is a learning curve for any young person. But it’s even harder if you’re a young person leaving care. 

There's a lot to think about, from budgeting to furnishing your home — and that’s all before you even find your new home. 

Young people leaving care might not have the same support network as other young people. They might not have a family home to return to if things go wrong, or someone to call if they’re struggling to fix a problem.  

This is why they are at a higher risk of becoming homeless. In fact, a worrying 26% of care-experienced people, aged 16 or older, say that they’ve had to stay on friends’ sofas and 14% have slept rough, according to Centrepoint

To help tackle the problem, Barnardo’s created Gap Homes — a project that offers homely, affordable housing for young people leaving care. The young people we support tell us that this project has provided them with a more certain future and has been a vital stepping stone to independent living. For this reason, we’re partnering with local authorities and industry partners across the UK to build a further 50 homes.

Elizabeth McShane, Head of Business at Barnardo’s Gap Homes, explains how the project is giving young people the fresh start they deserve.   

A young woman in a blue jacket smiling in a garden

What challenges do young people face when they leave care?  

“Some young people might rely on their family to help them when they first move into their own place or when they go to university or college. But young care-experienced people usually don’t have a support network that they can rely on. 

Sometimes they don’t have any family. Or, if they do, they may be unreliable or lack the resources to help them.    

If they are eventually offered a place to live (whether that's council housing or a private let) it can often be cold, damp, expensive to run, and difficult to heat. They might have no carpets or furniture. 

The other issue worth noting is location. Sometimes young people will be given housing in an area where they do not feel safe. That might be a housing scheme with high crime rate, an area they don’t come from or an area where they are vulnerable to predatory behaviour."

They might be trying to set up their own house at the age of 16 or 17, and it’s just completely overwhelming for them. 

Elizabeth McShane

Head of Business at Barnardo’s Gap Homes

Inside of Gap Home

What are Barnardo’s Gap Homes? 

“In a nutshell, we’re creating new housing that’s suitable for young people at the point of leaving care. 

Some young people aren’t ready to live independently and have their own tenancy at 16 or 17 but they find themselves in a situation where they have to. This can be for a variety of reasons, such as they have outgrown a children’s home, their foster placement has ended, or for another reason, such as pregnancy.

Gap Homes fills the gap. It gives them somewhere stable that they can call home and also provides the support they need. 

The current housing crisis means that there’s not a lot of available housing, let alone for young people leaving care who are particularly vulnerable. 

The housing that’s sometimes offered to them can be so unsuitable that it can set them back and undermines any support they've been offered. This can have truly devastating consequences, including resulting in homelessness. So, we wanted to build something suitable for them.  

Gap Homes offer young people leaving care a comfortable home. As soon as they walk in the front door, they don't need to worry about the house. It doesn’t dominate their mind, and this means they can concentrate on themselves and what they do want to do with their lives.” 

We're creating high-quality, affordable houses that are easy to manage, have low energy costs and allow young people to be visible in their communities. 

Elizabeth McShane

Head of Business at Barnardo’s Gap Homes

What have been some of the successes (big or small) of the project? 

“The biggest success for me is that it's now a UK-wide program. I’m proud that we've embraced this as a charity because housing is a fundamental need. 

I also think about the first young person who moved into a Barnardo’s Gap Home, who is a young mum to a two-year-old.  I feel immensely proud of her and what she’s achieved, and I feel proud that we helped her by providing a stable home and support.” 

What young people have to say about Gap Homes 

Jenny*, aged 22, lived in a Gap Home in Scotland for just over a year with her newborn baby. This is her story:  

“I was 19 and living in a residential unit when I [became] pregnant. It was arranged for me to move into my own place, into a Barnardo’s Gap Home.  

It was a big change, and I was scared. But living there with the support I had wasn’t a massive jump to go from being surrounded by people, to suddenly living on your own and everything that comes with that. It was a nice stepping stone. 

I’ve moved into my own flat now and I feel like I’ve come a long way. I’m starting a new course to get a care qualification and I’m confident in making decisions about our future, which is something I never imagined having the confidence to do just a couple of years ago. 

Jenny*

lived in a Gap Home in Scotland for just over a year with her newborn baby

As well as my worker that came to help me every day, there was different support I could access at different stages depending on what I needed, including parenting support and counselling when I was struggling. I got help from Barnardo’s with learning how to pay bills and managing all those other things to run your own home.”  

*Names have been changed to respect the privacy of the young person. 

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