Removing access to Housing Benefit for 18-21 year olds could place many vulnerable young people at increased risk of homelessness. This briefing explains why.
Youth homelessness campaign
Over half of those approaching councils and charities for help with homelessness are under 25; a similar proportion of those living in homelessness services in England are young people.
The biggest single cause of this is friends or family no longer being able or willing to house them. This is most commonly caused being relationship breakdown.
Homeless young people often face a range of additional barriers: nearly 6 in 10 are not in education, employment or training; more than half lack the skills to live independently; substance misuse or mental health issues are not uncommon; over 90% of charities report that benefit sanctions have affected the ability of young people to access accommodation.
Young offenders and care leavers are at greater risk of homelessnes, and councils are preventing homelessness amongst young people in just 19% of cases.
Research shows that, if left unsupported, those who experience homelessness at a young age are at greater risk of becoming homeless and develop complex problems in later life.
We must act to prevent young people becoming homeless and to ensure they are not denied the opportunities that most people take for granted.
The solution to youth homelessness
To close the door on youth homelessness, we need concerted action on several fronts
- All local authorities 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.
- Free mediation, advice and support services must be available in every local authority area to families and young people at risk of homelessness.
- Schools should play a key part in the prevention of homelessness through education work and early identification and appropriate referral of those young people at risk of homelessness.
- We recommend employers should offer work experience and training opportunities for homeless young people to help them gain the skills they need to secure apprenticeships and sustainable employment.
- Targeted work experience placements (with a mentor if appropriate) should be available to all homeless young people.
- A local single “front door” into services for vulnerable young people in housing should be established to ensure clarity, consistency and access to prevention and support services.
- A wide range of affordable accommodation and support options should be available in local areas for both families and young people. This should include support attached to private rented accommodation, supported lodgings, nightstop services and independent flats.
- Investment in timeout projects and suitable emergency accommodation to allow young people and their parents respite before relationships reach crisis point.
- Commissioners should seek expert advice when planning services to meet the needs of homeless young people
- Government should ensure that reform of the welfare system does not increase the hardships faced by young people and that investment in housing-related support services is protected.
- Investment in homelessness prevention and support services should continue so that local authorities can adequately meet their local need.
- Government and local authorities 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.
In 2011, we published the first national research indicating that youth homelessness was on the rise. Since then we have continued to track the issue and push for better services and support for young people.
Young and homeless 2014 shows:
- A third of charities have increased the support available to young people
- Half of areas are now using the recommended 'positive pathway' approach to helping vulnerable young people
- 92% of local authorities are now carrying out home visits
- 97% now have a joint protocol between their housing and children’s services departments.
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4 in 10 young people become homeless because their parents are no longer willing to house themYoung and Homeless 2013
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