A child's legal rights Bedroom sharing and moving out

It's important to make sure children are safe and comfortable whether they're sleeping at home or staying somewhere else. There isn't legislation in the United Kingdom on bedroom sharing but our guidance can help you to decide when it's appropriate for children to share a bedroom at home or on holiday.

As children grow up they may start thinking about moving out or be asked to leave home. We've explained the legislation that ensures children are safe and that support is available for young people who move out.

Bedroom sharing

Girl reading in bed

There is currently no law in the United Kingdom about children of different genders sharing a bedroom. We would not advise that children of the opposite sex over the age of 10 share a room.

Parents and carers need to decide sleeping arrangements in the family home to ensure that all children are safe and their needs are met. As children get older and their desire for privacy increases, sleeping arrangements may need to be reviewed.

If you're renting or your home is owned by a housing association there may be rules in place restricting children over 10 of the opposite sex from sharing a room. Your local authority should be able to give you more information and discuss any concerns. You can also contact an experienced advisor in housing matters at your local Citizens Advice Bureau or by speaking to the housing charity Shelter who can also advise on issues such as bedroom tax.

If the arrangement is for a short time parents or carers need to decide in advance where everyone will be sleeping.

Speak to everyone individually and if anyone feels uncomfortable with the suggested arrangements then an alternative needs to be found.

Before staying away from home it's always a good idea to speak to children about staying safe. For younger children remind them of The Underwear Rule and for older children you can see our tips on conversation starters. Tell them they can always speak to you or another trusted adult if anything makes them feel uncomfortable or is worrying them.

Leaving home

Tree teenage girls in a park

As young people get older they may start to think about moving out and living independently.

This can be for various reasons. They may want to live with friends or partners, have their own child to care for, want to avoid family conflict or no longer feel safe at home. In some cases parents may ask their children to leave the home, for example for financial reasons or a breakdown in relationships.

 

When can a child leave home?

Under 16s
Parents of under-16 year olds are legally responsible for making sure their child has somewhere safe to stay.

16-18 year olds
Once a young person reaches 16 they can leave home, or their parents can ask them to move out. However parents are still legally responsible for their child until they reach 18.

What support is available for children who need to leave home?

If a child under 16 is made to leave or does not feel safe in their home, local Children’s Services can help.

Children's Services can also offer a family support so that the child doesn’t have to leave home.

But if it’s in the child’s best interests to live somewhere else, they can arrange for them to live with another family member or friend, or provide emergency accommodation, such as a foster placement.

It’s important to consider a child's ability to support themselves independently as they may not be in a position to put down a deposit on a property, pay rent and bills, or buy food:

  • In England, Northern Ireland and Wales, young people are not legally entitled to have a tenancy agreement to rent a property in their own name until they are 18 (in Scotland this is possible from 16).
  • Young people aged 16 and over may be eligible to claim benefits in certain circumstances.

Children’s Services can provide support to families where a 16 or 17 year old is considering leaving home. They may be able to work with the family to enable the young person to stay at home, or arrange alternative accommodation such as with another family member or friend. But they will also respect the child’s wishes about where they want to live.
16 and 17 year olds may be classed as homeless if:

  • they decide to leave home because they feel unsafe there
  • they are forced to leave by a parent and have no other living arrangements.

A homeless child is entitled to accommodation from their local authority Children's Services, regardless of their nationality or immigration status. Shelter provide further information and advice for adults and young people on their housing rights. Shelter also have a dedicated housing advice helpline which can be contacted on Freephone 0808 800 4444.

The local Citizen’s Advice Bureau can help work out what support a child is entitled to, and Childline is always available to support young people who need to talk things through.

Young people who have their own children are entitled to support. The local authority Children’s Services or the Citizen’s Advice Bureau can advise about what help is available.

When a child in care reaches 16 they will make a plan with the local authority to help prepare them for independence.

When they reach 18 they are no longer in care but will be supported by the local authority until they are 21 (longer if they are in education or training). 

The local authority will help them decide where they are going to live, whether they’ll stay in education and what further support they might need. More information on leaving care can be found on Gov.uk.

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