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Homeless young people held back from moving to independent living

Seventy per cent of homeless young people were ready to move on from supported accommodation and into independent living but remained in beds in hotels for rough sleepers, research has found.

The YMCA highlighted that the government has prioritised beds for rough sleepers during the recent crisis which the charity supports. However, young people who feel ready to leave supported accommodation and move onto independent living – which would free up space for others - are unable to do so as result of financial and social barriers.

Denise Hatton, Chief Executive of YMCA England & Wales, said: “Supported housing is designed to be a temporary aid for young people to settle and have a helping hand to get their lives on track. However, many young people are forced to stay for months or even years after they feel ready to move on due to the barriers and blockades of the welfare system and outlook of our society.”

Findings from YMCA’s longitudinal research into the experiences of young homeless people found that an inability to save, a lack of affordable housing and discrimination in the private rental sector were the main reasons given for why young people were unable to move on from homelessness.

Deposits and upfront costs required for private renting are difficult to come up with when, typically, most young people in supported housing rely on welfare benefits to cover the cost of rent and everyday living, leaving little or no money left to save.

Those in employment also struggle as housing benefit is stopped immediately on starting employment despite a delay in receiving a salary, leaving almost all of the young people the YMCA spoke to in the study in debt.

The research also found that the private rental market is unaffordable and unstable for those who can save enough for deposits. Private landlords can be reluctant to take on young people as tenants, often requiring guarantors and additional checks, which can be difficult for those in supported housing. Forty one per cent of young people told YMCA that landlords being unwilling to let to them was the main aspect preventing them from moving on, topped only by the cost of rent and deposits at 44%.

Young people would benefit if the government helped them progress to independent living by increasing the amount of benefits received while trying to move on from supported accommodation. For those in employment, they should be allowed to retain more of what they earn as they start to increase their hours, to support them as they move on.

The YMCA has launched a petition to highlight the issue to government and help young people to take the next step into independent living and enable them to reach their full potential.

Denise Hatton, Chief Executive of YMCA England and Wales, added:“With personal, financial and social obstacles piled in front of them, homeless young people need a welfare system which is designed to support them, not hold them back. If the Government continues to ignore the faults within the system, they risk trapping young people in an endless cycle of homelessness, ultimately becoming stuck, disheartened and further isolated by the insurmountable challenges they face.”

The petition is available here https://ymca.e-activist.com/page/73978/petition/1

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