According to ‘Young & Homeless’ report, a survey of 79 homeless charities and 108 local authority housing services found that, over the past year:
•Nearly half of homelessness services (44%) and councils (48%) have seen an increase in young people seeking help because they are homeless or are at risk of becoming homeless;
•The number one cause for homelessness among this age group is relationship breakdowns with family and friends, and cases of this have increased;
•The majority (62%) of young homeless clients seen by charities were not in education, employment or training, 46% were in financial difficulties; and
•A quarter of young clients (26%) seen by services had experience of sleeping rough.
The study also looked at how services are responding to increased demand among this age group and their responses highlighted some deep concerns for the sector, including:
•48% of homeless agencies reported turning away young single homeless people because their resources were fully stretched;
•Nearly one in five local authorities (17%) feel they are not meeting their legal requirements for homeless young people aged 16-17;
•Half of local authorities report using B&Bs as emergency accommodation for young people, despite Government guidelines which advise against their use;
•More than 70% of local authorities said they had no shared accommodation private sector provision for young people, despite this being the only option for young people on housing benefit; and
•53% of homeless agencies have experienced closures or threats of closure to youth services in their area.
Commenting on the findings, Jacqui McCluskey, Director of Policy and Communications for Homeless Link, the umbrella body for homelessness charities, said:
"With more Government homeless figures due out this week, these findings underline the grim impact that the recession is having on our young.
"With rising youth unemployment, a changing welfare system and many families struggling to get by, youth homelessness is likely to get worse. We can’t prevent the recession but we can limit the impact it is having on the next generation.
"The longer someone doesn’t have a home, the more likely they are to develop complex problems and become trapped into a cycle of homelessness. If we don’t provide access to the right advice, help and support for young people now, we are potentially looking at a much bigger, and more expensive, problem in the future."
The report makes a number of recommendations to help prevent youth homelessness and reduce the impact that it has. These include:
•Ensuring that changes planned by Government to the welfare system do not cause higher youth homelessness;
•Protecting cost effective advice and prevention services, such as family mediation, from local authority cuts;
•Protect the Supporting People funding which pays for housing related support
•Finding alternatives to B&Bs to provide accommodation for young people such as Nightstops;
•Making it easier for young people to rent private sector housing and make sure they don’t get squeezed out by rising rent costs and increased demand for housing;
•Ensuring that local authority housing and social services’ departments work better together to meet their legal requirements to 16 and 17 year olds; and
•Providing better access to education, training and employment for young people who find themselves homeless.
Paul Marriott, Chief Executive of Depaul UK, the UK’s largest youth homelessness charity said:
"For those of us providing services to vulnerable young people facing homelessness, Homeless Link’s findings sadly come as no surprise.
"Depaul UK has begun to see a rise in rough sleeping among young people in some parts of the country and we expect this to continue to rise given the continuing squeeze on household income and public expenditure. We are also concerned, given family breakdown is the most significant factor of youth homeless, that more families may buckle under the pressures of the current climate.
"Depaul UK supports all of Homeless Link’s recommendations. In particular we would like to see early intervention services not only protected from cuts, but also earmarked for any available funding. Depaul UK’s Reconnect family mediation project prevents homelessness in 82% of cases and saves local authorities millions of pounds, yet we struggle to obtain funding for this work. We would also encourage more people to consider providing accommodation for young people in housing crisis through Depaul UK’s Nightstop and Supported Lodgings schemes."
Seyi Obakin, Chief Executive of Centrepoint, said:
"This report shows just how tough the next few years will be for the 1,200 homeless young people Centrepoint supports every year in terms of finding a job and achieving independent living.
"It highlights that more than 60% of homeless young people are not in employment or training and, due to a drop in funding, many young people are being turned away from housing.
"With 400 young people every day across the country knocking on the doors of councils looking for housing and advice, it is clear that the government must step in and support charities and local authorities to deal with this deepening crisis."
Lorna Esien, Director of Operations for the homelessness charity St.Basils said:
"We have seen a definite trend in terms of a significant increase in the numbers of young people presenting as homeless, mainly due to family conflict and overcrowding.
"For the first 6 months of this 2011, we saw 2289 young people which is a significant increase on 2010. Over 30% were aged 16/17 and nearly 80 % were Not in Education, Employment or Training.
"As a response to these trends we have in partnership with the local authority and other agencies created a multi-agency Youth Hub, which focuses on preventing homelessness, and intervening early to link young people with a range of appropriate support and accommodation services. As a result we have been able to prevent homelessness in the vast majority of cases.
"We worry that welfare reform could lead to a hardening in the numbers of young people experiencing homelessness. Local authorities must therefore act to protect front line services such as the Youth Hub if this is to be avoided."
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