I will be taking part in the Solihull Sleep out on behalf of St Basils this evening and wish to make a few points about the issue in Solihull.
(Article in Solihull Observer)
It is really positive and motivational to see the level of support from our residents and communities to support this important cause, with numbers attending tonight being very high. This is particularly valuable to us because all the money raised from this evening will be reinvested in the provision of vital support services delivered by St. Basil’s in Solihull.
We also have some exciting plans for next year and beyond in the area of youth homelessness so your support in spreading the word amongst your communities and social groups will be invaluable.
Youth Homelessness in Solihull
Contrary to what you might expect homelessness in Solihull is higher than the regional and national averages – in 2015/16 Solihull’s homelessness acceptance rate per 1,000 of the population (where the Council accepts a duty to offer permanent accommodation to an applicant) put us 31st out of 319 Local Authorities in the Country.
This need is particularly driven by young people with about a third of demand coming from those aged 16 – 24. In part the high levels of homelessness are a consequence of Solihull’s difficult housing market which creates a number of barriers for all homeless and low income households in terms of finding suitable and affordable housing solutions.
The housing market is especially difficult for young people to navigate due to a number of welfare reform changes introduced over recent years and is a particular problem in Solihull due to higher than average Private Rented Sector (PRS) rents that are increasingly out of step with Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates, a smaller than average PRS, a lack of shared accommodation options for those under the age of 35 and huge pressure on the Council and Housing Association’s affordable stock, with waiting lists significantly higher than the number of properties that become available to let per year.
Solihull also has above average numbers of looked after children (largely driven by the number of Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children). This impacts on the number of young people leaving care who are likely to be vulnerable and to continue to require support from the Council and partners.
Under the current system a proportion of young people who approach for assistance will not be owed a re-housing duty yet will be experiencing a range of difficulties which make it hard for them to successfully find and sustain a tenancy. They will be provided with advice and assistance to find their own accommodation but often there will be no on-going support in place. In 2015/16 there were 78 young singles who, having made a homelessness application, were not owed the full statutory duty.
Even where housing is provided, access to accommodation alone is often not enough to prevent future homelessness. Without education and skills support, routes into work and wider support to address mental health needs, offending behaviour, substance misuse and family dysfunction a young person will often struggle to make a successful transition to adulthood, experiencing repeated cycles of homelessness and vulnerability, poor life-chances and negative outcomes into adulthood.
The increased costs of an individual becoming homeless can be spread across a range of public services, with homelessness prevention and early intervention reducing potential involvement in crime, rough sleeping, substance misuse, mental health issues and long term benefit dependency.
The impact of unmet housing needs and failed tenancies is therefore reflected in increased vulnerabilities for young people, rising costs of dealing with crisis presentations across services and disruption in local communities.
Our Plans for Next Year & Beyond
In response to these issues the Council has been working with St. Basil’s to develop a new way of working with young people who are homeless, at risk of homelessness or in housing need. This new initiative will be called the Solihull Youth Hub and is similar to the youth hub delivered by St. Basil’s in Birmingham
Through the Youth Hub, which will go live w/c 3rd April, St Basil’s will provide housing advice and specialist home options support to single young people aged 16 – 24.
People will be able to refer those they are concerned about, or themselves, online or by contacting the Youth Hub which will be based in Kingshurst, with outreach services available in Chelmsley Wood and Solihull Town Centre.
At the Youth Hub St. Basil’s will provide the single point of access for all young singles who need housing advice and support. This will involve co-ordination of the assessment process, offering homeless prevention (to include mediation and home visits) and home options support, management of a referral process into existing supported accommodation and tenancy support, co-ordination of support for more complex cases and ensuring that appropriate support is in place once a young person moves into their own tenancy.
Officers from the youth hub will work with a range of other services (e.g. health, social care, children’s services, drug and alcohol support etc) to develop early intervention partnerships across community locations and the project will also fund specialist mental health support for young people, staff working with young people and parents and carers.
The aim of this new approach will be to minimise the number of young people who require rehousing and reduce incidences of young people approaching in crisis. The focus will very much be on early help, targeted prevention and support for planned moves.
To achieve this St. Basil’s will be working with partners to identify those likely to be at risk and encourage those considering their housing needs to access services at an earlier stage, ensuring that young adults are getting the support they need before they find themselves in serious trouble.
We know that in most instances it is best for young people to be with their families and through targeted mediation, housing advice and housing options assistance St. Basil’s will support young people to return home and work towards independent living in a planned way. However where young people genuinely cannot return home and don’t have any other options available to them the youth hub will give them much needed support to find a suitable emergency placement and work with them to support access to longer term accommodation and eventually independent living.
The model on which the service will be based was developed nationally following research which shows that working to prevent homelessness and encourage planned moves leads to better outcomes for young people and saves money across public services. It will complement other local initiatives providing routes into employment and education, while supporting the Council’s priorities of improving health, wellbeing and building stronger communities.
Operating for an initial term of 2 years the pilot will aim to accurately measure demand from young people in Solihull, capture the range of needs that young people are presenting with and highlight gaps in local services that need to be addressed. Following 12 months of delivery a review will be carried out to evaluate the impact of the pathway, assess progress against the targets set and make recommendations for continued operational arrangements in this area.
We will have lots of methods of spreading the word about this service so please do look out for more information and help to raise awareness amongst those that might need support with their housing options – the best place to signpost someone to local services is through the St. Basil’s website where there is a link for those that live in Solihull www.stbasils.org.uk