No one would disagree with the principle of ‘Earning and Learning’. Homeless Young people tell us they want us to support them to complete their education and find a job. There is no chance that they can fulfil this ambition if they don’t have somewhere safe and affordable to live. We tend to forget that by virtue of their youth, they are also the least experienced, as well as the lowest waged. Homeless young people are therefore unlikely to have access to social, emotional or financial capital to fall back on.
Around 4000 young people come to St Basils for assistance each year. Through our prevention work and in partnership with Local Authorities, 75% return to family or friends with assistance. That still leaves nearly 1000 who cannot, for a variety of reasons. 69% of those are under the age of 19; 82% of them have fallen out of the education and employment pathways. They live in our supported accommodation for periods up to 12 months. Whilst with us, they receive intensive support to address underlying trauma as a result of rejection, violence, neglect and abuse; they build confidence and skills so they feel able to re-engage with education and training and they have support to find a job and a home. 76% re-engage with education, training and employment whilst with us and 92% leave us in a planned positive way.
These young people are not even the most troubled. The most troubled struggle to hold on to any opportunity, to keep accommodation and to engage with services. The government’s Fair Chance programme is a pilot scheme providing 3 years of support for the most troubled 18-24 year olds who are homeless, not in education, training and employment and not able to access existing services. The support they need is intensive, long term, skilled and compassionate. We are part of the Fair Chance Fund pilot. Matthew* has lost his accommodation over 20 times in his short life, abused as a child, he missed school, struggled to read or write, committed offences and has spent time in prison. He is too high risk for supported accommodation. He eats rarely as he pays off debts when he receives his benefit. His current private temporary accommodation is squalid. He has taken weeks to build any trust at all with his Community Coach but is starting to believe that she is there for the longer term to support him to make the small steps towards that home and job he hopes for.
Removal of universal entitlement to housing benefit from young people, even with exemptions for the most vulnerable, reduces landlord confidence making them reluctant to let accommodation to young people. This is as much the case for social landlords as it is for private landlords. It makes move-on from supported housing difficult and in turn that blocks supported housing and reduces access for other young people. It prevents young people finding their own solutions to intolerable living situations and pushes them towards statutory interventions. The alternatives all being much more costly across any metric: social, health, criminal justice, economic….
We are assured that there will be exemptions for vulnerable young people. We hope that this will continue to encourage self-help and prevention activity. It would be perverse if vulnerability at a higher and more costly threshold had to be triggered before modest assistance with housing costs could be accessed.
13th July 2015