New report calls for action to prevent next generation homelessness

Published recently (21st June), No Excuses, explores the causes of homelessness amongst 16 and 17 year olds,  its long-term impact on young adults and whether they are being effectively looked after and safeguarded by local authorities.

In an analysis of Freedom of Information (FOI) responses obtained by Inside Housing from 161 councils, the report finds that these local authorities were approached an estimated 14,000 times in 2012/13 by 16 and 17 year olds who needed help with housing.

Backed by homeless charities Centrepoint, YMCA England, St.Basil’s and Depaul UK, the report also indicates that many 16 and 17 year olds are not being properly housed or assessed by councils, potentially putting them at risk.

Of those given accommodation by councils, 8% were housed in B&Bs and 9% in shared accommodation with adults, which goes against statutory guidance on the issue.

Many councils also appear not to be meeting their legal obligations towards 16 and 17 year olds. The 2009 House of Lords Southwark ruling, obliges local authority children’s services to assess the needs of homeless 16 and 17 year olds to ensure they get accommodation and support if they need it. Analysis of the FOI responses indicates that 59% of young people in 2012/13 who approached councils with housing needs were not referred directly to children’s services and fewer than half were referred to children’s services at any time during their homelessness assessment.

No Excuses highlights that most 16 and 17 year olds find themselves homeless because of a breakdown in relationships with family or friends. The report also outlines the range of other complex problems which homeless young people often experience, such as substance misuse, mental health issues or not being in education, training and employment.  These are issues which, if left unsupported, are likely to make it even harder for young people to get the help they need and could result in more problems in later life, including homelessness.

Following a number of high-profile Serious Case Reviews that have highlighted significant failings on the part of local authorities and related agencies in the support offered to homeless young people, No Excuses makes a number of recommendations and calls for urgent action by local authority children’s services which are currently not following statutory guidance.

Using examples of effective solutions from a number of charities, No Excuses makes a number of recommendations on how local authorities can better prevent youth homelessness and support those who need help.

Rick Henderson, Homeless Link’s Chief Executive, said: “The research and findings of this report emphasise the vital importance of providing immediate, effective support to vulnerable young people. The effects of homelessness upon 16 and 17 year olds can have a massively negative impact on the path their life takes, yet too many local authorities are failing young people when they are most in need.

“Our partners in the sector are leading the way with innovative and effective programmes to support young people and help them get their lives back on track. We strongly encourage local authorities to follow these good examples and act now to ensure young people receive the help they need and are entitled to.”

Stuart Macdonald, editor of Inside Housing magazine, said: “Despite the obvious financial pressures faced by councils the law is clear about their responsibilities in this area. A number of local authorities are managing to meet their obligations and the remainder need to pick up on this good practice more quickly.

“We simply cannot allow vulnerable young people to be failed in this way.”

Denise Hatton, Chief Executive, YMCA England: “Teenage years are some of the most formative of a young person’s life. It should be a time for personal development, education and new experiences.  And yet, for too many young people, the anticipation of adulthood is replaced by anxiety as problems such as family conflict, financial difficulties or the loss or death of relatives, leaves them vulnerable and at risk of homelessness.

“We all know that teenage years pass quickly, and without the security and stability of a place to call home, or access to essential education, skills and training, homeless teens are being put at risk, exposed to harm or denied the opportunities given to others their age. This can create a ‘lasting legacy’ of homelessness and other difficulties throughout their lives, and we call on local authorities to prioritise the needs of this next generation and the young people’s services which can support them.”

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