Housing

Care leavers often struggle to find a home. Here's an idea that gives them a fighting chance  

Mary-anne Hodd's scheme enables councils to act as guarantors for care leavers, opening up the options for young people starting out on their own

Illustration of two hands and a small person taking a key

Care leavers struggle to find a home. Illustration: Lou Kiss

“Although it’s called care leaving, a lot of young people say that actually, care leaves us.” This is what Mary-anne Hodd, a former care leaver and developer of a game-changing guarantor scheme, says. When she left care, Hodd, who lives in Newquay, wanted to move into privately rented accommodation with her friends. Without a parent to act as a guarantor, she approached her local council for help. But they had no mechanism in place to guarantee leases for care leavers. 

“I was met with this kind of ‘computer says no, we don’t expect you to rent privately, we expect you to move into council housing or supported accommodation’,” she says. 

Woman smiling at the camera with blond hair and a white vest
MARY-ANNE HODD Founder, The Guarantor Scheme

For Hodd, who works as a teacher, trainer and adviser in the children’s social care sector, such a move would have been a step backwards, given her “trauma-fuelled” memories of living in council housing as a child. So she took matters into her own hands. Her solution? To develop a scheme that would help councils to act as guarantors for care leavers.   

“The stigma that surrounds us is very limiting in terms of the routes out and what’s expected of us,” she explains.    

“But part of the journey of care should be that we have high aspirations for our young people. And it should be that we provide the same opportunities for them as for the general population.”   

Guarantors are often required by landlords when young people want to rent a place to live. A guarantor is usually a parent or close relative, who agrees to pay your rent if you do not. Care leavers do not have the same support. With this in mind, Hodd put feasibility at the heart of her guarantor scheme, taking a “holistic” look at a young person’s readiness for renting, their budgeting ability, their emotional and social needs, and asking them questions: How soon would you let somebody know you were struggling? At what point would you reach out for help?   

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The term “corporate parent” refers to the collective responsibility of the council for providing the best possible care to the children looked after by it. When Hodd presented her idea to Devon County Council’s corporate parenting board, to her surprise the council was quick to implement her recommendations, outlining in a report that the whole council, including all its staff, should consider the children and young people in their care as their own.  

Shortly afterwards, Kent County Council worked with Hodd to follow suit. The scheme has been successful because it ensures that care leavers are really ready for private renting.    

“Just as your parents wouldn’t act as your guarantor if they knew you weren’t ready for it, it’s the same with this corporate guarantor,” Hodd says.   

With more 10,000 young people in England ageing out of the care system every year, Hodd is keen to implement her scheme across the country. She has put her guarantor scheme onto an online platform which she is selling to local authorities. For £1,650 annually, councils can access a step-by-step guide that shows them exactly what they need to do to establish it in their area. But could this guarantor scheme, already recommended by the Children’s Commissioner, really be implemented across the country? Hodd thinks so, as it is aimed at people who are ready for it, but just need to be given a chance. For her, the scheme was “life-changing”. 

But it is not just her own life that she has managed to change.   

“I still get emails every single day from young people that are either using the scheme or need the scheme,” she says. Hodd recalls emails from care leavers for whom it meant securing a place to live, which then helped them to get the job they wanted.   

“It propels them, which is just incredible. It means so much,” she says.    

Councillor for Exmouth Town in East Devon, Joe Whibley agrees.

“When you’re leaving care, you have enough uncertainty and trepidation about having to take that step as it is,” Whibley, a former foster carer for care leavers, says.   

He explains that in addition to helping young people rent somewhere they want to live, the scheme would remove the worry from their “big, long list of problems”, which would be “incredibly comforting and welcome”. 

Local councils often work with charities to help with things like furniture, but this is futile if care leavers have nowhere to put it, Whibley points out. And “they could easily take the step” to implement a scheme like Hodd’s. 

Getting messages from young people desperate to rent but living in council areas without the scheme is “heartbreaking”, Hodd explains. 

Her initiative, however, is a beacon of hope for those looking to go down the route of private renting. 

If it were to be implemented across the country, it would open a door for care leavers and give them the chance to be financially independent in accommodation of their choice – something that so many of us take for granted.    

Find out more about The Guarantor Scheme here.

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