The Youth Homeless Parliament (YHP), facilitated by charity St Basils, is made up of over 100 young people aged 16-25 from across England who have experienced homelessness and are currently receiving support from organisations who work with homeless young people across the country including St Basils, Centrepoint, Crisis, Depaul UK, The Foyer Federation, St Mungo’s and YMCA.
Using their own experiences as a basis, the young people’s recommendations focused on how prevention and relief services can be better utilised and developed to support other young people in the future. Four areas were identified for improvement through a nationwide consultation of YHP members. These were; the Education System, Support Services, Accommodation and Welfare.
YHP members feel that more can be done through the Education system to prevent homelessness. Many of the young people present felt they had been unprepared for the crisis and the situation they found themselves in and they weren’t sure where to get help. The majority of the YHP members have benefitted through Life Skills programmes from the charities that support them and therefore recommended that such programmes should be taught through the national school curriculum, in an interactive and engaging way.
They recommended coaches and mentors to better support young people in school to keep them engaged, helping to prevent homelessness.
For young people who have already become homeless, the young members stated that having a ‘lead officer’ to co-ordinate support was crucial in a complex environment and that ongoing support was vital in preventing repeat homelessness.
As family breakdown is still the biggest cause of youth homelessness, YHP members recommended that ‘crash pads’ providing safe accommodation, offering ‘time out’ for all concerned, where support can be provided to the family to help resolve issues, can help prevent youth homelessness and where safe, enable the young person to return home.
The YHP members were clear that returning home is not an option for some young people and developing affordable, safe accommodation for young people on low incomes should be a priority for government. To assist with this YHP members suggested young people could be involved in renovating empty homes across the country, developing their own skills and increasing the stock of accommodation available.
Regarding welfare support, YHP members felt that benefit removal and sanctions compounded homelessness when a young person was already vulnerable or had mental health issues. YHP members recommended better coordination and communication between agencies supporting young people with a clear objective of preventing homelessness and further detriment. In this way a different course of action could be negotiated, preventing repeat homelessness.
These points were backed up by young people sharing their lived experiences.