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EACEA National Policies Platform


4. Social Inclusion

4.6 Access to quality services

Last update: 27 January 2021

LAST MODIFIED ON: 12/03/2018 - 16:09

On this page
  1. Housing
  2. Social services
  3. Health care
  4. Financial services
  5. Quality assurance



Local authority social service departments are responsible for supporting young people with housing needs. They support those under 16 years of age who are in conflict with their parents and feel forced to leave home and have a duty to provide accommodation for a young person who is homeless. The Children Act 1989 considers a young person to be homeless if:

  • no-one has parental responsibility for them
  • they are lost or abandoned
  • the person who has been caring for them is unable to continue to provide suitable care and accommodation
  • they are at risk if the local authority does not provide accommodation for them (applies to 16 and 17 year olds).

Almost all 16- or 17-year-olds who have nowhere to live will be classed as 'in need' and receive support from the local authority social services department. Guidance for LAs can be found on the Welsh Government website. Social services carry out a needs assessment to decide on the type of help the young person is entitled to. While this decision is being made, social services must provide accommodation if the young person in question has nowhere else to stay. The type of provision made available depends on personal situation, what is available in the area and how much it costs. The accommodation offered could include a room in a hostel, foyer, Nightstop scheme or self-contained accommodation (details below):


Emergency hostels for single homeless people provide purpose-built accommodation where they can stay for a short time. Some emergency hostels only provide accommodation for women, young people or those who have been sleeping on the streets for a long time.


Foyers offer affordable accommodation for young people, usually between the ages of 16 and 25, who are homeless or in housing need, and want to develop skills and prepare for living independently. Foyers vary in size and the amount of support they offer. Some are converted houses which can house up to 20 people. Others are in larger purpose-built hostels that can house up to 100 people.

Young people living in a foyer must sign up to an education and training programme based on the skills they already have and the type of work they are interested in doing. Foyers usually work closely with careers services and training agencies. Some foyers also have job clubs for non-residents. Many have arrangements with local employers who may be able to provide work experience, apprenticeships and eventually permanent jobs.

Nightstop schemes for young people

Nightstop schemes provide free temporary accommodation for people aged between 16 and 25 years of age in the homes of volunteer families usually for one night at a time. Homeless young people are provided with a private bedroom in a family home, an evening meal and breakfast. The young person can use all the facilities, including a washing machine, but will be asked to leave after breakfast. 

Volunteers are checked and trained by DePaul UK, a charity that works with young homeless people.

Self-contained accommodation

In rare cases, homeless young people may be offered self-contained accommodation. If this happens social services should also provide support to help with managing a tenancy, advice on budgeting, paying bills, claiming benefits and being a good tenant and neighbour.

Housing benefit and Universal Credit

Universal Credit is a welfare benefit which began a phased introduction across the United Kingdom in 2013. It replaced six means-tested benefits and tax credits: income based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Housing Benefit, Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, income based Employment and Support Allowance and Income Support. It is only available to those over 18 (and under state pension age) who are not in full time education or training. 

Young people making a new claim for Universal Credit receive a programme of intensive support. The 'Youth Obligation Support Programme' (YOSP) supports 18-to-21 year-olds to gain the motivation, skills and experience to move into work. Young people on the YOSP are supported by the DWP’s Jobcentre Plus network into sector based work academy places, traineeships and helped to apply for apprenticeships (see the article on 'Integration of Young People in the Labour Market' for full details). Payment of welfare benefits is dependent on the young person taking part in a work placement or preparing to begin an apprenticeship or traineeship after six months.  Published statistics indicate that there were 63,000 participants on YOSP between Oct 2018 and April 2019, with almost 2 in 3 participants who complete the programme finding work. 

Linked to this, since April 2017, the housing element of Universal Credit (or Housing Benefit if the claimant has not moved on to Universal Credit) is no longer being paid to young people aged 18-21. The stated rationale is to ensure 'young people in the benefits system face the same choices as young people who work and who may not be able to afford to leave home'. The Universal Credit (Housing Costs Element for claimants aged 18 to 21) (Amendment) Regulations 2017 specify the categories of young people who will be exempt from the removal of the housing costs element of Universal Credit. These exemptions include: those who may not be able to return home to live with their parents; certain claimants who have been in work for 6 months prior to making a claim; and young people who are parents. The House of Commons Library has published a briefing on the withdrawal of the entitlement from 18- to 21-year-olds. 

Social services

Local authorities are responsible for delivering social services for young people. The relevant strategies and initiatives are described throughout this chapter.

Health care

Treatment through the NHS in Wales is free at the point of delivery for all individuals, regardless of their age, although patients may be required to pay for subsequent treatments (including dental care and prescriptions, for example) depending on their age or financial situation.

Young people under the age of 16 or between the ages of 16 and 18 who are in full-time education are entitled to a free eye test. Young People under the age of 25 are entitled to free dental examinations. Full details of the entitlement are available.

In 2008, the Welsh Government published a set of standards used to plan and deliver effective young people's healthcare services. The five standards are:

  1. access to healthcare services
  2. the resourcing of healthcare services
  3. communication
  4. the patient experience
  5. the evidence base and professional training.

Each standard includes a related set of actions for key partners to achieve, alongside a timeline within which they must achieve it.

Mental health

CYPMHS (child and young people’s mental health services) are the NHS services that work with children and young people who have difficulties in their emotional or behavioural wellbeing.  They are multidisciplinary teams, often consisting of:

  • psychiatrists
  • psychologists
  • social workers
  • nurses
  • support workers
  • occupational therapists
  • psychological therapists – this may include child psychotherapists, family psychotherapists, play therapists and creative art therapists
  • primary mental health link workers
  • specialist substance misuse workers.

Young people might be referred to CYPMHS to help them deal with disorders or issues such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, autism, behavioural problems, bullying, depression, eating disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder, psychotic disorders, including schizophrenia, and substance abuse. CYPMHS are locally organised.

In 2010, the Welsh Government published Breaking the Barriers: Meeting the Challenges. Better Support for Children and Young People with Emotional Wellbeing and Mental Health Needs. This outlined its efforts, alongside relevant partners, to deliver safe, comprehensive, effective and efficient support for children with emotional wellbeing and mental health needs.

In 2012, the Welsh Government launched Together for Mental Health, its all-age ten-year strategy for promoting better mental wellbeing. The programme's second delivery plan (spanning from 2016 to 2019), contains a number of priority areas, of which 5, 6 and 7 focus specifically on supporting children and young people.The third and final plan, published in 2019, outlines the six high level outcomes underpinning the 10 year strategy: 

  • The mental health and well-being of the whole population is improved.
  • The impact of mental health problems and/or mental illness is better recognised and reduced.
  • Inequalities, stigma and discrimination are reduced.
  • Individuals have a better experience of the support and treatment they receive and feel in control of decisions.
  • Improved quality and access to preventative measures and early intervention to promote recovery.
  • Improved values, attitudes and skills of those supporting individuals of all ages with mental health problems.


Moreover, the Together for Children and Young People Programme was launched in 2015 to improve the mental and emotional health services for children and young people in Wales. The programme, led by NHS Wales, aims to provide improved support for children and families through new ways of working. Further information can be found in the scheme's Framework for Action (NHS Wales, 2015). Related to this, the Welsh Government produced guidance in 2016 aimed at ensuring that children and young people who are experiencing mental health or emotional problems receive the most appropriate treatment. The guidance outlines how CAMHS services and counselling services can work together in the most collaborative and effective manner possible.

Furthermore, in September 2018, the Welsh Government announced a ‘whole school’ approach to youth mental health and wellbeing will be implemented. By adopting this approach, schools will have a role in helping with prevention and early intervention of any issues, which includes mental health issues. This was subsequently accompanied in Jan 2019 by £7.1 million additional funding to improve the mental health of children and young people in Wales. 

See also ‘Mental health’ in the ‘Health and Well-being’ chapter.

Financial services

The Welsh Government's Financial Inclusion Strategy, published in 2016, is explicitly linked to the Tackling Child Poverty Strategy. Although the strategy is not aimed at any particular group in Wales, it mentions several specific responsibilities and measures aimed at avoiding financial exclusion in young people, including:

  • local authorities have an important role to play in the delivery of financial education in schools to ensure young people have a good understanding of personal finance issues before they leave school
  • financial literacy has been embedded within the National Literacy and Numeracy Framework (Learning Wales, 2014) in the Welsh curriculum, in order to help children and young people make informed decisions about money during their adult lives
  • credit unions are involved with savings schemes with schools, allowing children and young people to save regularly through facilities offered at their school
  • several banks in Wales have launched programmes aimed at increasing financial literacy, including the financial literacy of vulnerable young people.


Access to allowances and credit

There is no legal age limit for opening a bank account, but a bank manager can decide whether to allow a child or young person to open an account. It is a criminal offence to send to people under 18 years of age material inviting them to borrow money or obtain goods or services on credit or hire purchase. However, those between 14 and 18 years can enter into a credit or hire purchase agreement if an adult acts as their guarantor.

It is possible to borrow money at any age, but access to loans may be limited because a lender will not usually be able to take a young person to court if they break the terms of a loan. This is because you cannot usually be legally held to a contract you make when under 18. Under 18s can be added to an adult's credit card as an authorised user or may apply for prepaid cards but they will not be given their own card.  

Money and Pensions Service

The Money and Pensions Service came into existence in early 2019, as a new money guidance body, merging the functions of the Money Advice Service (MAS) with the Pensions Advisory services and Pension Wise.

MAS previously brought together a large number of stakeholders to draw up a strategy to improve financial capability across the UK. The strategy, launched in October 2015, aims to improve people's ability to:

  • manage money well, both day to day and through significant life events
  • handle periods of financial difficulty.

It has a focus on developing people’s financial skills and knowledge, and their attitudes and motivation. This, combined with an inclusive financial system, can help people improve their financial well being. The strategy sets a number of priorities to better support young people:

  • Improve understanding of the different capabilities or barriers faced by post-school young adults in managing money and making key financial decisions
  • Identify effective approaches to supporting young adults affected by welfare reform
  • Identify effective approaches to support young adults impacted by changes to student finance both during their studies and after they graduate
  • Trial financial capability interventions with leading employers of young adults.

The strategy discusses children in care, young care leavers, young careers, and young adults as vulnerable and in need of extra support to acquire financial capability. It also discusses the challenges faced by young adults as they transition towards independent living (between 16 to 18 and continuing to their mid-20s). Two of the key themes of the strategy relate to children and young people and young adults

The Money and Pensions Service is currently consulting on a new strategy as a newly merged organisation.   

Financial Conduct Authority 

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is the financial regulatory body in the United Kingdom, but operates independently of the UK government, and is financed by charging fees to members of the financial services industry. It publishes a series of discussion papers on specific issues relevant to the FCA's work. Two of these papers, although not focused on young people, are nonetheless relevant:


Quality assurance

Youth Health and Social Care Services

Healthcare Inspectorate Wales is the independent inspectorate and regulator of healthcare in Wales, including:

  • Child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS)
  • General healthcare services for young people
  • Supporting young people with life-limiting conditions and palliative care
  • Transition from child to adult healthcare services.

It monitors against Health and Care Standards, across seven themes: 

  1. Staying Healthy
  2. Safe Care
  3. Effective Care
  4. Dignified Care
  5. Timely Care
  6. Individual Care
  7. Staff and Resources

The Care Inspectorate Wales is the independent regulator of social care and childcare services across Wales with a role to register, inspect and take action to improve the quality and safety of services for the well-being of the people of Wales.  These services encompass children’s homes and out of school care, as well as the inspection of Boarding Schools, Residential Special Schools and FE Colleges.   


Wales has a Regulatory Framework for Housing which places clear expectations on Housing Associations to demonstrate tenants are involved and shape services and decisions taken by associations and how services provided are of a high quality and improving. Relevant Performance Standards are set by the Welsh Ministers in accordance with section 33A of the Housing Act 1996. Failure to meet the Performance Standards is one of the grounds for the Welsh Ministers to use regulatory and enforcement powers contained under the Housing Act 1996, as amended by the Housing (Wales) Measure 2011.

Financial Services

The Money and Pensions Service (an arms-length government body sponsored by the Department of Work and Pensions) commissions aFinancial Education Quality Mark, delivered through Young Enterprise.  This signals quality-assured financial education resources that:

  • Have been developed in consultation with a teacher of educationalist and tested with young people
  • Have dedicated theory of change and evaluation plan
  • Have principal focus on financial education
  • Include opportunities for structured learning
  • Are engaging and relevant for young people
  • Are clearly written and easy to use
  • Contain accurate, up to date information and be free of branding. 

The Money and Pensions Service has plans to work to promote and expand use of the Quality Mark for resources in all UK nations and for vulnerable children and young people beyond purely school settings.