A Wales Without Homelessness Begins Upstream On Thursday 1st July, Llamau joined several partner organisations in an event that unveiled the results of the school-based early intervention programme, Upstream Cymru. Hosted by Cardiff University, the event offered a clear insight into just how impactful and effective Upstream has been, and how integral it has become in identifying young people at risk of disengaging from education, which could result in a future risk of homeless and/or entering the criminal justice system. Following in the footsteps of the successful Geelong Project in Australia, Upstream Cymru begins with a simple survey completed by students aged 11-16 whilst in school. The survey focuses on a range of areas, allowing for a wide scope of data to be collected by the Upstream team and the respective school. Student wellbeing, resilience and engagement with education are among some of those core areas. To date, more than 1200 surveys have been conducted across the seven schools partaking in the initial role out of the Upstream Cymru programme in Wales: the first and only country in Europe to invest in the proven prevention programme to date. During the event, Deputy Head of St Illtyd’s high school, Adam Fleet explained, “The survey isn’t presented as something focused around youth homelessness, but rather as a survey that helps us to understand a student’s wellbeing. Parents have been very receptive around the survey and have worked with us if areas of concern have arisen. Mediation in particular has been welcomed by some families.” Initial findings presented during Thursday’s event evidenced that a frightening 65% of young people who had undergone the survey were at risk of disengaging from school but up until that point, they were not on any radar for support. These young people were effectively hidden from view because they do not present with the “typical signs” that something may be wrong, either at home, in school or within friendship and relationship groups. Further findings also highlighted just how low some students rate their personal wellbeing. The population average is 15% but 31% of the young people surveyed marked their wellbeing as low. This is terribly concerning when considering the risks a young person may face when burdened with feelings of low self-worth, lack of confidence and poor mental health. All of these findings become significantly more concerning when coupled with the fact that 7% of young people also disclosed having no trusted adult in their life to turn to. When we are seeing such a clear picture of need in front of us we have to ask – what would happen to these young people if Upstream Cymru had not come along when it did? Where or who would they turn to without the support the programme puts in place for them? How many young people have already slipped through the net? Llamau's CEO, Frances Beecher explains, “We’ve reached the point now whereby some very important decisions must be made. For the first time ever, a Wales without homelessness is within our reach, yet the issue of funding, and its lack of, is threatening that future. “When we are faced with such potent results that have come directly from the voices of young people, we cannot fail them and stop now. We must push forward with Upstream Cymru, recognising that one size does not fit all and that these results could be the difference between whether a young person today becomes a homeless adult tomorrow.” A number of local authorities across Wales have shown a keen interest in delivering Upstream Cymru widely across their areas, but plans have been overshadowed by concerns that Upstream is replicating services already delivered through the Welsh Governments Youth Engagement and Progression Framework, something that is disputed by Llamau and partner organisations. Frances Beecher continued by saying, “Upstream Cymru complements the Youth Engagement and Progression Framework. The driving force behind the current framework focuses on reducing the number of young people who are not engaging in education, employment and training (NEET), but Upstream has the ability to identify young people who are not even considered to be at risk of becoming NEET, and provides intervention services that target an array of support needs.” Once a young person is identified as needing help - that may have otherwise gone undetected - intervention begins immediately. The Upstream team offer a range of intervention services that target homelessness, and partner organisations, such as Cardiff Youth Service, are able to offer support through their universal work around areas such as bullying and resilience. ____________________________________________________ Sammy’s* Story*Name and image changed to protect the identity of the student Sammy was identified as needing help after participating in the Upstream Cymru survey. Sammy is also the typical student the survey targets because they attend school and do well academically. Sammy is a top student who is motivated and driven and has a good relationship with the school. Up until completing the survey, it was unknown that Sammy was actually living with their maternal grandparents, and had been doing so for at least six months. Sammy did not want to stay within the family home due to problems with their mother and mother’s partner. Sammy’s mother has mental health issues and a history of alcoholism. Sammy expressed wanting a “normal” mother-child relationship and that they have to lie to the outside world to cover up for their parent’s behaviour. Sammy feels embarrassed but at the same time protective, which often leads to a role reversal where Sammy takes care of the parent. Since disclosing this personal information via the Upstream survey, Sammy has received support to help understand their relationship with their mother and to build skills and resilience towards mediation. Sammy has also received support with wellbeing before their mother goes into a rehab clinic. Upstream methodology is to work with a young person’s family as well as them directly. Sammy’s mother was initially contacted and support began to help them both improve their relationship. Moving home was not an option to begin with however over time and with the right support in place, Sammy has since moved home and all seems to be going well. ____________________________________________________ Often, young people like Sammy consider school to be their safe space and so will avoid being absent at all costs. They will do well academically for many reasons, one being that they spend more time in school studying than others who are happier at home. Upstream Cymru is more than just a survey, it is a tool proven to end homelessness, by helping us to see through and break down the barriers that surround young people at greatest risk.