End Youth Homelessness Cymru is a partnership of five homelessness organisations in Wales that work with vulnerable young people. It's made up of Llamau, Adref, GISDA, Dewis and Swansea Young Single Homeless Project (SYSHP).
We are hugely concerned about the February 2017 legislation to end the automatic entitlement to housing benefit for 18-21 year olds. Read our open letter to Work and Pensions Secretary Damian Green.
Sign our petition to the UK Parliament to change this situation.
We have released our manifesto for the elections to the National Assembly of Wales in May 2016.
Click here to read the briefing paper on ending the use of bed and breakfast in Wales for 16 and 17 year olds released by the End Youth Homelessness Cymru Partnership, (kindly hosted on Llamau's website).
What exactly is the problem?
Since the Housing (Wales) Act 2014 received royal assent, there have been many positive changes to the way that support for people who are experiencing homelessness or who are about to experience homelessness is delivered. The expansion of priority need status and the ability for local authorities to get involved much earlier is to be commended.
However there remains within the legislation the possibility for local authorities to discharge their homelessness responsibilities for 16-17 year olds on an emergency basis within bed and breakfast accommodation. End Youth Homelessness Cymru believes the practice of putting children into bed and breakfast accommodation is simply not acceptable. This accommodation can often be shared with adults who have recently left prison and places young people at unacceptable risk of exploitation, abuse and worse.
In England, the Department of Schools, Education and Skills in 2010 issued guidance in 2010 which stated, “bed and breakfast accommodation is not considered suitable for 16 and 17 year olds even on an emergency accommodation basis.”
Whereas in Wales, guidance issued in April 2015 states “Local Authorities should avoid using Bed &Breakfast (B&B) accommodation wherever possible. Where B&B accommodation has been used in an emergency situation, applicants should be moved to more suitable accommodation as soon as possible.” There is no currently no consideration of the needs of children of 16 and 17 year olds, or consequent prohibition in this guidance.
What is the scale of the problem?
There are currently no concrete figures relating to the scale of this activity as there is no consistent tool used by local authorities to measure the frequency and length of emergency bed and breakfast stays for young people aged 16-17.
End Youth Homelessness Cymru partners estimate that approximately 96 - 106 16-17 year children in Wales were accommodated in bed and breakfasts during 2013-14. However, more research on this issue is essential if the true picture of bed and breakfast use in Wales is to be understood.
What are EYH Cymru proposing?
The need for emergency accommodation will always exist but there are far safer options for accommodating this group of young people, such as 24-hour supported accommodation provided by organisations in the End Youth Homelessness Cymru Partnership. These 24-hour supported projects provide support in an environment where young people who have already had traumatic experiences can begin to move forward towards independent and purposeful living.
We are calling on the Welsh Government to ensure:
• That there is clear, unambiguous instruction from Welsh Government which prohibits the use of bed and breakfast accommodation to alleviate emergency homelessness for 16- and 17-year olds
• That a safety network is established so that vulnerable homeless children aged 16 & 17 can access accommodation across Wales, rather than be placed in B&B
The EYH Cymru partnership will work with Welsh Government to develop such a network using their current 24/7 projects to ensure places can be found.
Our estimate of 96 young people accessing bed and breakfast accommodation represents a very manageable number of extremely vulnerable people we can achieve real change for by creating new patterns of working within local authorities to deal with emergency cases of homelessness in this age group in a more effective way.
The use of more appropriate supported emergency accommodation would ensure that young people get the support that they desperately need at a very critical and vulnerable time for them.
EYH Cymru recognises that local authorities do not want to use emergency bed and breakfast accommodation and they will use them as a temporary stop gap of just a few days. However children are at risk during those few days.
When young people need to access emergency accommodation, they are at their most vulnerable. A young person’s need to access emergency accommodation is as a result of a series of events in their life which render them vulnerable, and emergency accommodation must be there to begin a process of support which helps a young person to live independently. For those without the support of family, the lack of a safe place to sleep, even just for one night, could have a serious impact on a young person’s safety, mental health, physical health and how likely they are to misuse alcohol and drugs in the future.
Case Study - Erin (not her real name)
Erin was just 16 when her mother decided to move to a different country, leaving Erin to live with her older sister. Her sister was living in a very violent relationship, and for her own safety, Erin had no choice but to leave.
At this young age, Erin was accommodated by the local authority in a bed and breakfast. Vulnerable and without support she was exposed to extreme levels of danger and abuse, and one night was violently attacked and raped She became addicted to drugs, began to drink alcohol heavily and turned to self-harm in order to cope with what had happened to her.
A space became available for Erin to move into Llamau accommodation at one of our SAFE houses, where she received support to settle down and stop drinking and using drugs.
Sadly, not long after she moved in, Erin’s sister‘s health plummeted and her grandfather, who had been very emotionally supportive, died. Her mood swings became worse and she began to self-harm in secret. Erin was diagnosed with depression, and given medication. She was in danger of going off the rails again.
Llamau worked with Erin to help her understand the destructive cycle of exploitation and abuse that she had experienced before she came to Llamau, and that putting herself at extreme risk was also a form of self-harm. Through intensive support Erin began to develop appropriate coping mechanisms to reduce the risk of abuse and gain the skills she needed to live independently, such as budgeting and tenancy skills.
With Llamau’s support, Erin enrolled for a hairdressing course, and moved into her own tenancy where Llamau could continue to support her. After planned tapering, support was brought to a close. Erin had developed the skills she needed. Today Erin is still living in the flat that she moved to.
Young people need stability and security in their lives. Without Llamau’s Supported Accommodation services, Erin, and others like her, would remain vulnerable, at risk of abuse and exploitation.
• It costs £977 per year to provide mental health services to someone like Erin who is suffering from depression.
• It costs £2,197 per year to provide more complex mental health services to an average adult.
• If Erin had continued to use drugs as a coping mechanism, the NHS would spent £3,727 on her to treat her, and it would have cost £2,015 to provide services if she was alcohol dependent.
• If Erin had been placed in foster care when her mother left, it would have cost social services around £722 per week.
• If Erin had continued to stay in the B&B it would have cost £335 per week to house Erin, if she had disengaged from the housing department and become street homeless, it would have cost £8,605 per year to deliver services to her.
Placing Erin in safe supported accommodation when she needed it most could have completely changed the course of Erin’s life.