This study reviews changes in youth homelessness policy and practice across the UK since 2008. It draws on academic research, “grey literature”, and available data and statistics, combined with qualitative interviews and focus groups with 26 youth homelessness experts from the four UK nations. The review aims to identify key gaps in provision and practical models that offer the most effective responses to youth homelessness.
The report highlights a number of positive developments over the last seven years:
- improving responses to homeless 16/17 year olds;
- the extension of the rehousing duty to virtually all homeless people (rather than only ‘priority’ groups) and a stronger emphasis on homelessness prevention in Scotland;
- the introduction of a legal duty to take reasonable steps to prevent homelessness in Wales;
- the extension of local authority duties to support young people in care; and
- investment in the development of accommodation options for young homeless people in England.
Gaps in services
Drawing on consultation with 26 youth homelessness experts across the UK, the review identifies a number of areas in which service provision can be strengthened and developed:
- Prevention: Despite the mainstreaming of preventative ‘housing options’ approaches across Great Britain, the availability, uptake and effectiveness of mediation services could be improved, with a particular gap identified in the provision whole-family interventions and support and access to respiteor time-out emergency accommodation options while such family support and mediation is put in place.
- Accommodation options: Youth homelessness organisations face a major challenge in providing good quality accommodation that is genuinely affordable to young people both in work (often on low wages) and out of work (often with limited entitlements to welfare support). There is a particular gap in accommodation provision for young homeless people with complex needs who require high levels of support, with high quality, small-scale supported accommodation projects; Supported Lodgings; and the ‘Housing First’ model seen to offer promising solutions for this group. Psychologically informed environments –designed to take into account the psychological and emotional needs of service users – are now seen as crucial in the youth homelessness sector given that a higher proportion of young people using services have complex needs. For young people with low support needs, the development of long-term accommodation options that are affordable for individuals on a low income are required. Such provision might include: ‘light touch’ supported accommodation; Peer Landlord and other shared accommodation models; design and build options that minimise costs and rent-levels; repurposing of former student accommodation; and refurbishment of empty properties.
- Employment: There are calls for the better alignment of youth homelessness and youth employment services, to improve the employability and prospects of young people experiencing homelessness. Means of improving the employment offer for this group include: improving (formerly) homeless young people’s employability and work readiness through training and skills programmes and work experience; engaging and supporting employers to enable them to offer employment opportunities to young people who have experienced homelessness; and encouraging employment and earnings progression for homeless/formerly homeless young people through in-work support.
- Social networks: Supporting young people who have experienced homelessness to develop positive social networks is seen as an important means to support resettlement, improve young people’s wellbeing, and reduce the risk of repeat homelessness. Developing ‘social networks approaches’ to youth homelessness provision that help young people develop informal connections in the local community both during and after homelessness, including through mentoring schemes, were seen as important areas for development.
The full report can be accessed here.
A briefing summarising the report’s key findings can be accessed here.