MPs asked to help tackle youth homelessness
At our manifesto launch last week, we presented to MPs the steps our members believe could help close the door on homelessness.
However, with young people now making up over half those living in homeless services, we have followed up our manifesto with a more in-depth look at youth homelessness.
As MPs debated homelessness in Westminster Hall today, we thought you might be interested in what we told politicians about the issues affecting those aged under 25.
Our annual Young and Homeless research indicates that while the number of young people accepted by local authorities as statutorily homeless is going down, the number of young people accessing homelessness services is increasing.
Statutory figures only record the age of those who make a formal application for help with homelessness and are accepted. They do not take into account those young people who approached local authorities, but were refused assistance. As a result, the figures are likely to be an under-reporting.
As well as making up over half of those using single homelessness services in England, young people aged 16-25 are also presenting with a higher incidence of more complex problems with which they need support.
Around six in ten young people become homeless because their parents or carers are unable or unwilling to accommodate them. This is usually due to a relationship breakdown of some kind.
From our research, it is clear that households are coming under increasing financial pressure, which is having an effect on youth homelessness. As a result, 11% of youth homelessness cases are due to unemployment while living in the family home, 9% are due to benefit reductions and 5% are due to overcrowding.
We believe the impact of welfare reform and changes to individual benefits are affecting young people directly, as well as placing increasing pressures on their families. Loss of tenancy due to benefit changes have also become more common.
Barriers to independence
What is clear is that some young people risk becoming homeless more than others. For example, services report that 13% of homeless young people are young offenders, whilst 11% are recent care leavers and 60% experienced multiple and complex needs (a combination of needs around homelessness, mental ill-health, substance misuse and offending).
Around half of homelessness services reported that the needs of young people using their services were becoming more complex. Six in ten of homeless young people are not in education, training or employment and around half lack the living skills needed to live independently.
As research launched this week indicates, if left unsupported, young people who experience homelessness at a young age are more likely to develop more complex problems in later life.
Making the difference
We believe the next Government could help tackle this issue by continuing to invest in homelessness prevention and support services and ensure there is adequate provision to meet the needs of young people in local areas.
In practice this means:
- Both government and local authorities need to improve data recording and monitoring in order to help ascertain the scale of youth homelessness, monitor trends and observe the impact of prevention work.
- Every local authority should adopt a ‘positive pathway’ model to prevent teenagers leaving or losing their homes, and provide appropriate accommodation and services for those who do become homeless. Currently only half of councils use this approach.
- The government should take into account, when planning future welfare changes, the challenges young homeless people can face and ensure that reforms do not disproportionately affect young people. In particular, any proposals to withdraw Housing Benefit and Jobseeker’s Allowance for under-25s should be reconsidered to avoid the negative impact this would have on youth homelessness.
- Future employment support programmes to take account of the additional pressures on young homeless people caused by their insecure housing situation. There needs to be specialist employment support and advice including flexible training opportunities, apprenticeships and tailored job coaching.
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