Merchant Taylors Tackle Youth Homelessness

22 January 2021

In December 2020, Merchant Taylors’ Foundation awarded £100,000 to Depaul UK, a charity which battles youth homelessness, for their new under-16s initiative. The programme aims to implement structures that will prevent a young person from becoming homeless, tackling the causes for youth homelessness at the outset.

Depaul’s new programme will implement family mediation for children under-16 in London. Through similar work in other regions, results show that working with younger children and families, before more complex problems develop, is effective in preventing homelessness.

Sadly, in this country, generations of young people are let down in many ways, as problems at home gradually spiral into homelessness, poor health and disengagement from education and work. The twin track approach of effective training and workshops in schools, and intensive professional mediation for families at crisis point, represents a cost-effective and targeted response. More than this, it represents hope.

In London, Depaul plans to recruit a full-time Family Mediation Worker to support families and work with the current team to develop a national family mediation toolkit for family mediation professionals, as well as fund one full-time Education Worker who will deliver Depaul’s under-16s homelessness prevention schools programme.

Why Under-16s?

Through Depaul’s country-wide programmes, they have learnt about 16-25 year olds’ early experiences, which later can result in homelessness. Over 70% of the young people the charity supports have experienced family breakdowns, and their young service users share overwhelmingly that they lacked the support ahead of homelessness, which they later receive once homeless. Understanding that this balance needs to be re-adjusted to ensure that fewer young people become homeless in the first place, the grant from Merchant Taylors’ Foundation will help to support Depaul in creating support structures for those crucial moments.

People need to go into schools to talk about it. If someone had come to my school when I was younger, I might not have gone through what I did.

Research by Homeless Link highlights the importance of early intervention:

Homeless adults with complex problems reported risk factors which can lead to homelessness at a young age such as violence in the family home, exclusion from school, and running away from home in early life. If not properly addressed, such childhood experiences can result in homelessness and serious problems in later life.

And yet few London boroughs provide family mediation for under-16s, despite evidence indicating that work with at-risk families earlier can in fact prevent homelessness and further disadvantage down the line, both of which are much harder, and more expensive for charities and the state to remedy. With the grant from the Foundation, Depaul will be able to create an integrated approach of working with under-16s in both their schools programme and their family mediation service, saving many young people from becoming homeless and enabling them to have a brighter future.

Of course, working with schools is crucial to this programme’s success; they play a pivotal role in supporting young people and are uniquely placed to spot young people who may be experiencing problems at home. The new Education Worker will equip and empower staff and students to build lasting relationships at school that will help to prevent homelessness.

Working at schools within Hackney, Lewisham, Southwark and Tower Hamlets, the Company’s four key London boroughs, the education worker’s role will mix workshops, teacher training and sessions with students with creating a referral pathway through schools to Depaul’s under-16s mediation service, joining both preventative strands together.

The family mediation worker will be based in Southwark, though also will work across the four boroughs to deliver services and tailored mediation to specific families in addition to creating a ground-breaking toolkit which can be implemented by Depaul’s family workers and other professionals around the UK to support the delivery of family mediation services.

At the core of Depaul’s homelessness strategy is its prevention and through the rollout of this programme to encompass the under-16s at risk of homelessness, the charity believes it will be able to avert more complex disadvantage for a large number of young people. This grant from Merchant Taylors’ Foundation will fund this extension of services for young people across four of London’s most heavily disadvantaged boroughs, as well as standing as a legacy of Merchant Taylors’ support.

We look forward to sharing updates on this programme from Depaul. To find out more about Depaul UK view their website here.

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