The main aim of our work is getting young people to the stage where they can support themselves and live independently. However there is another strand of our work which is less obvious but no less important: homelessness prevention.
This incorporates our outreach activities in schools and prisons, benefit advice, financial literacy, advocacy, access to family mediation, employment support, addressing issues around communication or relationship skills and more. A key tool in our prevention work is the Independent Living Workshop series run by youth worker Stephen. These weekly sessions are aimed at equipping those young people who are ready to move out on their own with the skills they need to live independently for the first time, and most importantly to ensure that they’re able to hold on to their accommodation. We spoke to Stephen about the workshops and what they involve:
Could you give some background as to what the Independent Living Workshop is and why it was started?
In 2012 we started the Independent Living Workhops as part of our Private Rented Sector scheme, in which we support homeless young people to start renting rooms in private properties. The landlords know that the young people we refer to them will have done the Independent Living Workshop and therefore know their responsibilities as tenants and the basics of how to live on their own. The workshops also allow us to build up an idea of who is and isn’t ready to live independently.
What do you cover in the workshops?
The main things we cover are the rights and responsibilities of renting, because that’s so useful whether you’re renting privately or not, how to protect your deposit, what a contract is, what your rights are where to get help. We also cover health and safety in the home, budgeting, living in shared accommodation, splitting bills and that kind of thing. Money management is so important - understanding what money you’ve got coming in and going out, and how to keep enough money aside for all utilities as well as leisure and savings. We also are really focusing on encouraging young people to save for deposits so they can live independently.
Are young people who attend mainly working?
Sometimes they’re in work, sometimes they’re receiving benefits or not entitled to public funds. One of the main things about our PRS scheme is that it helps those in hostels, who struggle with high rents when they find work, and need a move-on option. Because young people’s lives are often unpredictable, we can’t insist on them being there at a set time every week, so we run it as a rolling programme which means people can drop in and out, or repeat subjects which helps reinforce the message.
Do any of the young people you’ve worked with stand out as being particularly representative of the journey people go on with PRS and the workshops?
One girl Abby comes to mind - she came to ILW a lot, she liked the pizza we have in the workshops! She came to NHYC having been told by the local authority that she had no recourse to public support. She was rough sleeping, but now she’s working, living in a PRS property, and doing all the right things. There are many more like her but she’s a good example of the changes people can make.
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