Bottleneck in supported housing with young people unable to move on, says YMCA


Young people are struggling to save and face a lack of affordable housing and discrimination in the private sector, the YMCA says.

Seven in 10 young people living in supported housing want to move on but are unable to do so due to “overwhelming financial and social barriers”, research suggests.

Young people are struggling to save and face a lack of affordable housing and discrimination in the private sector, according to the YMCA, the largest charitable provider of supported housing to young people in England and Wales.

This is leading to a bottleneck, the charity said, in which housing providers are unable to take in those newly vulnerable and in need of a bed.

It comes as many YMCAs are reporting increased demand for their housing services, with some young people unable to stay at home as the coronavirus pandemic exacerbates underlying family tensions.

The charity interviewed 268 16 to 34-year-olds in 2018, who were living in YMCA accommodation across England and Wales, and reinterviewed a small number between September and November 2020.

It found that 70% of respondents said they felt ready to move into permanent accommodation but were not able to do so.

YMCA said most young people in supported housing rely on welfare benefits and have little or no money to save after accounting for rent and everyday expenses.

Almost all the young people surveyed said they had fallen into debt due to their benefits being removed before being paid as they started work.

Some 49% of respondents said not having saved enough money was the biggest personal factor preventing them from leaving supported housing.

And 41% said a landlord being unwilling to let to them was the main external factor affecting their ability to move on, with 44% citing the cost of rent and deposits.

With private renting not seen as a feasible or stable option, many young people are waiting for social or council housing to become available.

Of those who were able to move on, for half it had taken up to a year, but for another quarter it took between two and four years.

Denise Hatton, chief executive of YMCA England & Wales, said: “Supported housing is designed to be a temporary aid for young people to settle and have a helping hand to get their lives on track.

“However, many young people are forced to stay for months or even years after they feel ready to move on due to the barriers and blockades of the welfare system and outlook of our society.

“With personal, financial and social obstacles piled in front of them, homeless young people need a welfare system which is designed to support them not hold them back.

“If the Government continues to ignore the faults within the system, they risk trapping young people in an endless cycle of homelessness, ultimately becoming stuck, disheartened and further isolated by the insurmountable challenges they face.”

The YMCA said young people in supported accommodation should receive an increased amount of benefits while trying to move on.

It is calling for local authorities to act as a guarantor for young people leaving supported accommodation, and for a clearer commitment from the Government to increase the number of social homes and affordable private homes.

It says the Government needs to commission a review into the caps on young people’s benefits compared to the cost of living, and enable people trying to leave supported living to earn more before their benefits start to be tapered off.

A Government spokeswoman said: “We are committed to supporting the most vulnerable and targeting support to those in need through the pandemic and beyond. That’s why we’re spending hundreds of billions to safeguard and create jobs, raising the living wage, and boosting welfare support.

“The Government is spending over £700 million to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping this year alone, with a further £750 million next year. We’re also investing over £12 billion over five years, the largest investment in a decade, to provide up to 180,000 new homes – with half for affordable and social rent.”

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