Homeless young people failed by lack of support

Homeless young people are being failed by a lack of support in overcoming inadequate life skills, compounded by substandard accommodation and isolation, according to a report published by the Equal Opportunities Committee today.

‘Having and Keeping a Home: steps to preventing homelessness among young people,’ highlights a series of challenges facing young people experiencing family breakdown and vulnerable care leavers in achieving independent living.

According to the committee report, which was informed by first-hand accounts of young people who had experienced homelessness, tools such as mediation, respite and the role of schools could all be used as a means of prevention.

The committee was also struck by evidence that young homeless people emerging both from families and the care system, possess what one witness* described as – “typically inadequate social skills and inadequate awareness of social norms,” and warned that, “We. . .are in danger of creating a subclass of individuals who do not have the social skills to move forward.”

Committee Convener Mary Fee MSP said: “While we recognise that the Scottish Government and local authorities are working hard to prevent youth homelessness, we were very troubled to hear from 16 year olds leaving care with a real lack of essential life skills such as budgeting, being put into utterly unacceptable, substandard accommodation and left isolated in an unsupported tenancy.”

“The Scottish Government must ensure that more consistent preventative work is undertaken and life skills taught in schools, that minimum statutory standards for accommodation are met and that our most vulnerable young people are supported at such a crucial time in their lives.”

The report also highlighted a number of issues for the Scottish Government to report back to the committee on:

  •     The great concern felt by the committee at some local authorities’ routine handling of 16-year-old care leavers via the homelessness route.
  •     The need to ensure community care grants (CCGs) which are available to help people on low incomes move out of residential care into a tenancy, are in place on the day the young person gets the keys to the tenancy rather than weeks and months later.
  •     A stock-check of every local authority’s strategy to prevent youth homelessness should be carried out to identify the effectiveness of each and identify poor performers.