Study conducted by social policy student finds work of youth homeless parliament both important for empowering young people and informing national policy

May 22, 2017

Housing is an essential commodity. Yet like me, most of us take these places that we call ‘home’ for granted. But if you take a step back and think about it, our homes are actually a fundamental foundation in our lives, which enable us to prosper both socially and economically. Take our homes away from us, and we become stripped of power, security, hope and a sense of future.

My name is Alex Robinson, a third year student at the University of Birmingham studying Social Policy (Housing and Communities). As part of my studies, I was lucky enough to undertake a work placement at St Basils, to support the facilitation of the ‘Youth Homeless Parliament’ (YHP); this comprises of 100 young homeless individuals who attend an annual event at Westminster Parliament to consult with Marcus Jones MP, in order to support the development and implementation of governments proposed policies and practises.

Over the past few years, I have witnessed the powerful effects of involving young homeless individuals in the decision-making process within the political sphere. The YHP evidently provide public sector professionals with a set of empirical recommendations on how they could enhance their services to better support young people. But most importantly, I have observed the significant impact that this group has on the lives its members.

From this, I developed a strong personal interest in the role of client involvement supporting young homeless individuals. However, through my research, it is clear that whilst this practise is a widespread concept in the health and social care sector, the powerful effects of such participatory practises have been largely neglected in supporting young homeless people. Consequently, this inspired me in my final year dissertation to conduct a study into the role of the YHP in supporting young homeless individuals, in order to outline the positive effects of client involvement and also influence similar service providers to adopt this approach. I employed a case study research design to investigate the YHP. The methods of semi-structured interviews and thematic analysis were adopted to gather and analyse the first-hand perspectives of five young individuals’ and three professionals, in order to determine the effects of client involvement supporting young homeless individuals.

Overall, my research outlines three empirical findings; (1) client involvement empowers young homeless individuals, increasing their self-esteem, sense of hope and control over their situation; (2) client involvement personally develops young homeless individuals, equipping them with key life skills and knowledge, but also instigates positive behavioural changes a renewed sense of identity to transition out of homelessness; (3) young homeless peoples voices provide essential evidence to support the development and implementation of national/local policy and practise.

However, it is important to note that this project has also had a significant impact on my own life. Since my placement began three years ago, I have become an all-round better person. Not only have I developed key life skills and knowledge in working with young people, but I have also been empowered and given a voice. I am now undertaking paid work with the YHP and Milner Court. Moreover, I was fortunate enough to co-host a lecture at the University of Birmingham to demonstrate my findings upon the positive effects of client involvement supporting young homeless people. I have donated the hundred pound fee I earnt for the lecture to St Basils.