We were truly honoured that HRH Duke of Cambridge returned for the third consecutive year to visit a St Basils scheme, as part of a series of engagements in Birmingham yesterday.
St Basils is the largest agency in the West Midlands helping young people aged 16-25 who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. HRH Prince William first visited St Basils in 2013 to commend Birmingham as the first City to commit to work together to End Youth Homelessness.
On this occasion HRH Prince William visited our innovative new Live and Work scheme, in Sandwell, which offers up to 27 young people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, both a place to live, making use of formerly empty nurses accommodation, and a place to work nearby, through Apprenticeships with Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust, in a whole variety of roles from Administration to more practical, caring roles.
The development of this scheme was in part the result of feedback from St Basils young residents who said they want to work but they need support to achieve this. Another clear aim in the development of this scheme was to ensure that young people can live benefit free by ensuring rents are kept at a level affordable for the Apprentices.
For quarter of an hour, in a private meeting, HRH Prince William met with the Young Apprentices involved with the scheme so that they could explain in their own words how it has benefited them.
One young Apprentice, Daniel, aged 20, said:
“The Apprenticeship has helped me get experience in a clinical area so hopefully I can move on to a role in emergency care, that’s what I want to do.
After meeting Prince William he added:
“It was an honour to meet him. I’ll never get that chance again. He said he had a lot of respect for us because of what we’ve worked hard to achieve”.
We have been working to prevent youth homelessness in Sandwell for many years with advice and family mediation services but this scheme, which opened earlier this year, is our first accommodation scheme in the area. St Basils used funding from DCLG’s Empty Homes Community Grant Programme (EHCGP) and a number of local charitable trusts to refurbish the flats and make them more homely.
However the truly innovative aspects of Live and Work, as so much more than just another accommodation scheme, have only been possible thanks to the commitment of a number of local partners. As part of the visit HRH Prince William met with those who have helped to make it possible including Mr James Pollitt, representing staff from Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust who approached St Basils with the initial idea and staff from Keepmoat Regeneration who helped renovate the accommodation at cost.
HRH Prince William was also introduced to several other partners who have helped to make this scheme a success; Ms Mandy Shanahan representing Health Education England who funded the pre-apprenticeship employability programme to help prepare St Basils young people and Mr David Taylor representing staff from University Hospitals Birmingham who deliver the pre-apprenticeship programme, as well as Councillor John Cotton, Cabinet Member for Birmingham City Council and the Mayor of Sandwell Councillor Barbara Price and Mayor's Consort Councillor Bob Price (pictured right) who have been supportive throughout.
As part of the visit HRH Prince William also met briefly with representatives from University of Birmingham to be updated, following his visit last year, on the roll out of the BOOST and Mental Skills Training for life programmes across all of St Basils 29 accommodation schemes this year, which have helped young people build mental resilience.
Jean Templeton, Chief Executive of St Basils said:
“It’s wonderful that HRH Duke of Cambridge has returned to visit us once more this year and meet with our young people and the partners that helped make this innovative scheme possible. This scheme demonstrates our ethos and commitment to ending youth homelessness through a whole community approach. It just shows that if we all put in a little bit, and focus on the best option for young people, we can achieve something really special. We hope to develop further similar truly affordable housing options for young people and employers in the future”.
Photo credit: Jas Sansi