THE BLOG

A Fair Deal for the Young and Homeless

31/01/2014 16:42 GMT | Updated 02/04/2014 10:59 BST

Boom times are here again, according to the headline in one newspaper. But will everyone, especially our young and homeless, be able to take advantage of this potential economic bonanza?

Every year an estimated 80,000 young people face the prospect of not having a place to call home.

My own children have the advantage of a stable home, a good education and parents who will always support them to do their best. However, as a new report makes clear, many young people just won't have the same life chances without the right support.

Published last week, what Young and Homeless 2013 lays bare is that escaping homelessness for many under 25s, is no an easy task

Our survey of over 160 front-line homelessness services revealed that nearly half of under-25s seeking help have become a homeless because their parents are no longer willing to house them.

Not only do many not have the prospect of returning to a stable home but they also faced other issues. A staggering 60% are not in any form of education and training or employment, while issues with drugs, alcohol, mental ill health and involvement with the criminal justice system are also common.

Unsurprisingly, many who face homelessness in early adulthood have limited experience of living independently and managing their own finances.

I strongly believe that, without the right support, we risk creating a generation who will not benefit from better economic times.

We will instead end up with a small but significant group of adults who won't get to take advantage of the opportunities most of us take for granted. Instead they are likely to develop even more complex problems, which may cost taxpayers more to resolve in the long run.

But it doesn't have to be this way, with the right services and support, not only can society prevent more young people becoming homeless, but we can ensure that more are able to leave the traumatic experience of homelessness behind.

So what needs to happen? The Ending Youth Homelessness Alliance is a coalition of charities and businesses that is calling for action, with specific asks on issues such as the family, jobs, housing and health.

Prevention is always the best cure and professionals need to get better at identifying young people at risk of losing their home and ensuring whenever possible that this does not happen.

This can be done partly through schools. Some teenagers leave home with little idea that their accommodation options will be limited or knowing where to turn for advice and help. Teachers can help educate young people and identify those at risk.

However, mediation between young people and their families is also important. Nobody should stay in an abusive home but we know that if mediation and advice is made available, in the majority of cases, individuals either end up not leaving home or are able return once a dispute has been resolved.

For those who don't have this option, the right accommodation has to be made available. Our research indicates that four in 10 councils are still placing young people in unsuitable accommodation, such as B&Bs, with adults.

We need to ask why this is still happening, particularly given the rise of 'night-stop' services in many areas. These give young people a safe place to stay in the home of trained volunteers, while a longer term plan is put in place. Night Stops are not only safer but have been shown to be more cost effective than using expensive B&Bs.

If we want young people to overcome homelessness, society also needs to provide support. In many cases this doesn't just mean having a roof over your head, it also means providing the help someone needs to move into adulthood. Whether this is help to get into education, training or employment, or to overcome other issues such as substance misuse.

So who needs to do what? Well, as our Young and Homeless report shows, services are getting better at identifying those at risk and making sure homelessness doesn't happen or, if it does, providing the help needed.

However, effective prevention and support remains patchy and the help a young person gets is still very much dependent on where they live and what their council is prepared to fund.

There are also signs that some politicians want to put more hurdles in the way of homeless youngsters. The idea of ending housing benefit for the under-25s, for example, will do little to help those turned out from their family home or who have no family to begin with.

What we want to see instead is clear leadership from all political parties, nationally and locally, to help end youth homelessness. Not only when it comes to prevention, accommodation and support but also on the issue of jobs.

We are facing a generation Y, many of whom have struggled to find work since they joined the employment market. If these individuals are to benefit from better economic times than many, especially those who've experienced homelessness, they will need more opportunities. This means help to secure more work placements, traineeships and apprenticeships.

If you agree, then sign our petition calling on politicians to make ending youth homelessness a priority.