There is clear consensus about the urgent need for the next government to deliver a viable funding arrangement to secure the future of supported housing. Recent government figures estimate that more than 700,000 people are in need, yet it is argued that there are 17,000 fewer supported homes available, with expectations that this gap will grow.
In the UK every year, 83,000 young people find themselves homeless and trapped in difficult circumstances. Yet only a small proportion of young people that are homeless qualify with their local authority as being in priority need for a home.
Existing research reveals that young people are now the most likely group to be living in poverty, and are at greater risk of homelessness than older adults, with nearly half of all people living in homeless accommodation services aged between 16 and 24 years old.
The Homelessness Reduction Act is a welcome measure but the suitability of scarce accommodation and Housing Benefit restrictions continue to limit young people’s access to housing options.
One key option for vulnerable young people is supported housing. However, the threats that leave the future of supported housing uncertain are many. With overall homelessness increasing by 10% since 2015 alone, pressure continues to mount upon local authorities through their statutory duty to provide temporary accommodation while longer-term alternatives are secured. More than ever, local authorities face difficulties in meeting their obligation due to ever reducing public funding, leaving authorities with less money available to provide the supported housing that thousands of vulnerable people need.
A new housing collaboration commissioned by Essex CC has been established to proactively tackle the national rise of youth homelessness and to support the most vulnerable young people.
The new countywide Essex Young People’s Partnership delivered by social justice charity, Nacro, in partnership with Family Mosaic provides an innovative accommodation and support pathway for young people, particularly those aged 16 and 17, as well as care leavers and vulnerable parents. The partnership is informed by the ‘St Basils Positive Pathway,’ a national framework introduced to help local authorities and their partners work collaboratively to effectively prevent homelessness and promote better outcomes for 16 to 25 year olds.
The partnership focuses on homelessness prevention and recourse to supported housing by working with local social care support teams; local authority and social care teams; and local businesses and communities.
Through collaboration with local councils, health services and social support teams, the partnership supports young people at risk of homelessness to avoid an accommodation crisis. Drop in advice surgeries are provided for young people and their families at the point of referral for housing support and prior to any move into supported housing; throughout any tenancy within supported housing; and before, during and after a young person becomes independent or moves back into a family home.
Young people at risk of homelessness are supported to avoid an accommodation crisis by:
- Offering support to help to build and maintain positive family relationships
- Providing a ‘trauma-informed’ service, so that all young people being assessed will ‘tell their story only once’ and receive personalised support to meet their needs
- Using council supported housing needs assessments for each individual as the framework for identifying housing need, levels of risk and required interventions
- Collaborating with key stakeholders in a multi-agency setting including ‘Team Around the Child’ meetings
- Delivering accredited courses and nationally recognised qualifications, apprenticeship and work placement opportunities, and peer mentoring
- Providing ongoing ‘move-on’ support in order for young people to secure long term accommodation and live independently, exploring suitable options from the social and private rented sectors
Joanne Drew is the Director of Housing & Wellbeing at Nacro.
Article originally published in the Municipal Journal.