Sophie Hannington was born in Yeovil and currently resides in Southampton. Sophie spent many years in foster care and experienced homelessness throughout her teenage years due to a lack of support, guarantors, and available housing. By the age of 21, Sophie was determined to improve the situation for other young care leavers and began voicing her own personal experiences to try and implement legislative change.
Sophie started a petition in 2020 to provide housing allowance for care leavers aged 16 - 25.
"I ran away from care when I was just 16 years old and experienced homelessness for a good 3 years of my life, this was never through lack of trying I work hard as an apprentice and I was on the housing waiting list but that was a 5-year wait, I had over 20 addresses so a poor credit rating, low wages, and no guarantors made it impossible to private rent at such a young age.
I was also turned away from supported lodgings as the minimal benefits meant I couldn't afford to live there.
I was left to fend for myself until I turned 21 and my life turned around, fortunately.
Since 21 to now 29 I have been doing my bit to give back to the system and help other care leavers who may be suffering as much as I did and last year I decided I really needed to make some real changes so set up a petition to increase the age of support to 25 and increase the amount of housing benefits care leavers receive.
I made it to 11,000 signatures in October 2020 and it ended with a letter from the government letting me know it was a problem they are seeking to change. I thought that was it.
But in 2021 I woke up to an email saying the government has increased the amount of housing benefit care leavers receive and the age from 22 to 25 a whole year earlier than they had intended! I was absolutely blown away.
To come from a place where I was left to suffer to now be able to use my experiences to help others and change the system is an overwhelming experience and I'm truly grateful for the support I received from everyone including the YMCA to make this happen."
It has been announced, from the 31st May 2021 care leavers in private rented accommodation claiming Housing Benefit or Universal Credit will be entitled to the higher, one-bedroom rate of Local Housing Allowance (rather than the shared accommodation rate) until the age of 25. This is an increase from the previous age limit of 22. In practice, this means care leavers aged 22-24 will now be entitled to higher rates of housing benefits.
The changes were due to come into force in 2023, but it was announced in March that they would be brought forward and implemented this year.
Read the full details of the change.