On Thursday 17th May 2012, 34 young people from the National Youth Reference Group led a conference at Aston Business School entitled ‘Getting It Right for Young People’. With input and research findings from other key speakers, the conference aimed to provide a platform for these young people, who have all experienced homelessness, to explain what needs to change in the fields of housing, employment, health and education in order to ensure young people don’t become at risk of homelessness. The conference, organised in partnership with Homeless Link, was attended by 157 delegates from local government, as well as other housing or charitable organisations.
The National Youth Reference Group (NYRG) is made up of young people aged 16-25, who have experienced homelessness. Managed by youth homelessness charity St Basils and funded through The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), the NYRG objectives are to increase and strengthen young people’s involvement in the development of strategy, policy, services and service delivery.
Introducing the day the NYRG member who chaired the conference said: “Young people deserve to have a voice and need to work in partnership with professionals on policy to get it right for young people…this is a youth led conference because young people want to be part of the solution not the problem….Rising youth homelessness does not need to be the inevitable outcome of the current economic situation. There are ways we can prevent it”.
Roger Wilshaw from the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) said that there are rising numbers of young people presenting as homeless who have complex needs; “We need services that cover a range of challenges, including mental health and substance abuse. It can’t just be about providing a roof any more”.
A major part of the conference was to launch four guides developed by NYRG members. Called ‘Getting It Right For Young People’ in Education, in Employment, in Housing and in Health, they provide advice and tips for professionals on how to make services for young people at risk ofhomelessness, more effective. The NYRG young people led workshops on the day to explain the barriers they had experienced in each of these key areas and presented their ‘top tips’ for professionals on how to ‘get it right’.
On Education, NYRG young people raised the point that beyond 18 there are few free education opportunities for young people making affordability an issue. Roger Wilshaw commented: “Aspiration is important to help young people climb out of social exclusion and avoid homelessness…. It is important for young people to be at the heart of planning”. Young people also feel there needs to be more education in schools about housing and homelessness so that young people can make an informed decision about their housing options.
On Health, NYRG young people emphasised the importance of treating young people as adults, speaking to them on their own as health professionals would with any other adult patient and yet using language that they can understand.
On Employment, NYRG young people were very clear that they want and need jobs to break the cycle of homelessness but feel they need more resources in order to be able to access the opportunities available. One young person said; “Homeless young people survive on £7.60 a day. Young people need help with things like travel costs and work clothes even to attend interviews. If young people could get this sort of help it would make a big difference”.
Overriding themes across the four areas included the importance of professionals being knowledgeable but explaining to young people in a way they understand, treating young people as individuals and tailoring support, ensuring young people had the right skills to make the right choices and providing as many opportunities for them to develop as possible.
As one young person put it;“NYRG is a best practice organisation if professionals are struggling to engage young people, it’s about finding a way to motivate them. Professionals need to empower young people to make changes -apply for funding, involve them in the service, in meetings, in liaising with other organisations. It’s not just a tick box exercise. NYRG young people build on their own skills so they can represent their peers because we don’t want other young people to go through the same things we have”.
Please click on the following links to download these guides.
NYRG Guides on Getting It Right For Young People:
Getting It Right For Young People In Housing
Getting It Right For Young People In Education
Getting It Right For Young People In Health
Getting It Right For Young People In Employment
NYRG are available to Local Authorities and organisations working with young people to deliver; workshops, presentations, consultations, staff training and sound panels.
Want to book NYRG for your event? Please email Tamzin Taylor-Rosser: firstname.lastname@example.org
Added May 2012