A housing offer which enables young people to live, work, earn and learn

CEO of St Basils explains the importance of Live & Work schemes in the UK.

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With youth unemployment at 11.2% compared to 4.2% for the general population (Oct-Dec 2021)[1], never has it been more important to provide a housing offer which enables young people to live, work, earn and learn. Too often, they are trapped in high rents, requiring dual navigation of the benefit system alongside entry level work or apprenticeship wages. Often the complexity means that work loses out to the greater fear of losing critical benefits.

For young people who can remain safely in a family home, they are more likely to be able to live, work or study and be benefit free. For those with access to ‘bank of mum and dad,’ that can enable them to take up apprenticeships and save deposits for rent or purchase. For young people who are not able to draw on such support, their options are more limited, particularly when it comes to work.

 

Young people’s Universal credit is currently below the official destitution level [2]and their housing support entitlement in the private rented sector is at shared accommodation rate (SAR). Supported housing can provide high quality accommodation and essential support as part of a progression pathway. Where this is not possible, young people can become trapped in high rents indefinitely, with sometimes little or no support. Demand outstrips supply of affordable and social housing and young people are often not a priority.

 

St Basils’ Live and Work model has tested a ground-breaking approach to providing accommodation which underpins young people’s entry into and sustainment of employment.

The partnership approach to phase one focussed on a shared objective of providing young people, who have been homeless or at risk of homelessness, with safe, affordable accommodation without recourse to the benefit system, and a route into employment via apprenticeships. Four bedroomed furnished flats akin to student accommodation provided 32 opportunities for young apprentices to pay their rent through their earned income. A priority was to deflate rents below benefit triggers so that young people were able to live and work and be benefit free.

The scheme has received national recognition, winning the ‘Outstanding Contribution to Homelessness’ category in the National Housing Awards 2018 and ‘Homelessness Partnership of the Year’ in the 2020 UK National Housing Awards.

From St Basils’ perspective, the scheme extended our options for young people without family support, enabling them to benefit from similar opportunities to their contemporaries, who do have such support. From our partner, Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust’s perspective, as an employer and community investor, the scheme has contributed to achievement of a younger and more diverse workforce. It has also supported staff development in understanding what relational skills are required to achieve inclusion.

Some 120 young people have lived in the scheme since it opened in 2015, all overcoming difficult starts, some with multiple needs and all with the trauma of the underlying issues which lead to homelessness. None have returned to homelessness. Over 30 young people have secured permanent employment following their NHS apprenticeships and 3 are currently undertaking higher education to become registered healthcare practitioners. As access to the apprenticeship scheme has changed, we have also been able to test out inclusion of young workers from diverse employment backgrounds within the scheme. Young people have moved on when they felt ready and could afford to, securing private rented options with friends and co-workers, without dependence on the social housing sector.

An independent evaluation of the scheme has shown the significant savings to the public purse over time: £14 return to the public purse for every £1 invested over 10 years.

Thanks to the achievements of the young people in phase 1, continuing support of Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust and funding from Homes England, Sandwell Council, and our charitable partners including Landaid and their Midlands Members, we have now managed to secure sufficient funding to develop a second phase, an ambitious Youth Village, utilising a further three blocks of former Health workers’ accommodation for conversion to 54 self-contained apartments for young workers.

The contributing partners have used their various assets and skills to ensure this scheme can be debt free and will provide self-contained accommodation at rents below local LHA levels for young people who have experienced homelessness but have secured or sustained employment.

Providing a safe, affordable home which enables young people to live, work, earn and learn is what we want for all those we care about. This scheme and the partners who will make this possible, illustrates what can be achieved when we come together and use our collective will, skill and resources, to fulfil a universal family role.

We believe the model can be replicated by others with similar motivation. Our aspiration is that it is included as part of a national Youth Housing offer which contributes to Ending Youth Homelessness.

Jean Templeton, Chief Executive, St Basils

[1] SN05871.pdf (parliament.uk)

[1] https://www.jrf.org.uk/report/destitution-uk-2020