Homeless youth sits on the street looking sad.

Are homeless services failing young people?

The IPPR North has today (Oct 23) released a report which outlines how homelessness services are set up can sometimes mean that young people fall through the net.

The report focuses on interviews with practitioners in the homelessness sector in North East England, as well as young people who have been affected by homelessness.

The report looks at how the circumstance that leads to young people being homeless are often very different from those that lead to adult homelessness, as well as the policies that are in place to support 18-24-year-olds, that legally define them as adults, despite being unlikely to have the same financial or emotional support that someone twice their age might have.

The report mentions that youth homelessness is difficult to gauge because young people are less likely to access formal services from councils, instead preferring to exhaust all of their informal options, such as sofa surfing, before they contact formal help.

The report says:

“The practical problems discussed above are one part of being homeless, but the emotional ones are also crucial. Young people need services and safety, but they desperately need a place that ‘feels like home’. This degree of security underpins the success of other kinds of support, and its absence could easily undermine them.”

The report uses practical examples from around the country, primarily focusing around Newcastle-upon-Tyne (which has the highest youth homelessness rate outside of London) to be able to draw conclusions on how the problems that young homeless people face can be addressed.

One case study used is Street Zero in Newcastle, a project which combines parts of local government, health services, housing providers, charities, local business stakeholders, and other service providers to ensure that all aspects of homelessness can be addressed under one banner.

Highlighting collaboration to tackle youth homelessness is an important aspect of the report, showing that services need to feel connected, instead of siloed to be able to offer the kind of tailored support that is paramount to helping young people.

The report explains:

“Young people valued support that was authentic, committed, and ‘specific to you, not focussed on five hundred people’. Several gave examples of people who had shown that kind of personalisation and focus, including social workers and workers in homelessness services. They were sceptical of support that is clearly generic, or target driven. In particular, the desire to get people to move on was associated with the latter.”

The report breaks its recommendations into categories, acknowledging that there are different challenges and different solutions for central government and regional stakeholders.

One of the main recommendations is a reform of Universal Credit, making it better to support renters and having the housing costs element of universal credit paid directly to their landlord.

Councils are encouraged to look at flexible council tax rates for vacant properties, which will drive up the supply of housing.


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