Charities call for national strategy to end youth homelessness

Rough sleeping is increasing across the North West

Charities in Greater Manchester have joined forces to call on the Government for a national strategy to end a youth homelessness epidemic.

The Greater Manchester Mayor’s Charity and Greater Manchester Better Outcomes Partnership (GMBOP) are among 100 youth and homelessness charities across the UK coming together. The collective want to see the Government and all political parties make commitments to end chronic youth homelessness and put in a place a coordinated, national approach.

Last year, around 129,000 under-25s approached their local council as homeless, but experts fear the true scale of this challenge could be double that number, with youth homelessness at an all-time high.

Official figures from 2021-22 show that, in Greater Manchester, more than 4,200 under-25s (16-24) were registered as being owed a ‘prevention duty’ – a duty to help prevent them becoming homeless.

Many say that the young people that have approached their charities for help haven’t contacted their local council for support, masking the true number of the ‘hidden homeless’ sofa-surfing between friends or even risking a night on the streets.

Between them, the 100 charities have enormous experience and evidence and are uniting to spread a message of hope. While together they help prevent and solve homelessness for tens of thousands of under-25s every year, they say widespread system change is now needed to stem the escalating crisis.

The charities say today’s young people are bearing the brunt of a ‘perfect storm’ of factors, with the effects of the pandemic and cost of living crisis disproportionately affecting the young and further increasing the risk of homelessness.

Greater Manchester is among those leading the way in tackling both homelessness and rough sleeping, and young people feature explicitly in the region’s homelessness prevention strategy and ongoing work.

Andy Burnham, Greater Manchester Mayor and patron of Greater Manchester Mayor’s Charity, said: “We want Greater Manchester to be one of the best places in the world to grow up, get on and get old.

“Our children and young people should have the best start in life, and they should not be in fear of homelessness. Our Homelessness Prevention Strategy has been co-produced with people with lived experience of homelessness, and I recognise the distinctiveness of that experience for young people.

“We invested in the Greater Manchester Better Outcomes Partnership to help stop youth homelessness, and that’s why I am pleased to support this campaign for a national strategy.”

Rachel O’Connor, programme director at Greater Manchester Better Outcomes Partnership (GMBOP), said: “Our work provides vital support to young people at risk of homelessness, helping them to stabilise their accommodation whilst building the confidence, resilience and skills to avoid long term homelessness.

“At GMBOP, we understand the value of learning from the experiences and voices of young people, using these to continually inform how we work. So we’re pleased to be a part of this campaign, alongside other experts in the field, to call for a national strategy – a strategy which will champion young people and their experiences and prioritise a compelling, nationwide approach to end youth homelessness.”

The collective is not only calling on the Government to implement a national strategy, but for candidates in future elections to make a manifesto pledge to explicitly tackle youth homelessness.

Where young people are overlooked in local and national homelessness and housing strategies, this reduces the opportunity to deliver effective prevention work and creates unnecessary barriers to finding effective solutions, including:

  • Prevention: Support young people to avoid reaching a homelessness crisis point in the first place
  • Housing: Establish better, safer and more accessible options for supporting and identifying those facing homelessness
  • Finances: Ensure fairer pay and resources are available to empower young people to build successful, independent lives

Dr Fran Darlington-Pollock, head of strategic development for Greater Manchester Mayor’s Charity, said: “We may never know the true extent of how many of our young people face homelessness, but we do know both what the consequences are, and what the solutions must be.

“We have been proud to fund targeted work to stop homelessness before it becomes a reality for young people in Greater Manchester through the ‘Keep Snug’ campaign with GMBOP, but we know more work is needed.

“Collaborative action uniting local, regional and national organisations is essential to ensure that those consequences are not ignored, and the solutions are acted on. The time for action is now.”

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