Homelessness In Northern Ireland Social Work Essay

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According to the HM Government Legislations (2003) The Housing (Northern Ireland) Order (1988) as amended, states that; "A person is homeless if he/she has no accommodation in UK or elsewhere."

This Statutory definition is fairly broad, so The Federation of National Organisations Working With The Homeless (FEANTSA) has provided a European Typology Of Homelessness (ETHOS) and calls for it to be used as a common framework definition of Homelessness at EU level.

FEANTSA states that the 4 main concepts of Homelessness are;



Insecure Housing

Inadequate Housing

These concepts can then be divided into 13 operational categories and used for policy and strategic purposes such as measuring the extent of homelessness and to develop, monitor and evaluate policy.

According to Northern Ireland Housing Statistics (2010/11) Homelessness has been increasing throughout the years, in 2004/05 17,362 people presented themselves to NIHE as Homeless with 8,470 being accepted as statutorily Homeless, in 2010/11 20,158 people presented themselves to the NIHE as homeless with 10,443 being accepted as statutorily Homeless.

In the Housing Statistics (2010/11) the top 5 reasons for people being accepted as homeless in 2010 were;

Accommodation not reasonable (2,644)

Sharing Breakdown/Family breakdown (1,995)

Loss of rented accommodation (1,200)

Domestic Violence (954)

Neighbourhood Harassment (854)

I grew a particular interest in homelessness during my year's placement. I worked for Ark Housing Association in Belfast, Ark had a Homeless shelter in Belfast called Roseville House. Roseville House takes in families with children or single parents who become homeless; they are referred to Roseville house by NIHE or out of hour's Social Services team. The main aim is to find these families with suitable permanent accommodation and until then provide them with support and help to live independently, this is done by carrying out an assessment of needs to every tenant and 'sign-posting' them on to other care and support teams to meet their needs in all aspects such as financial help, health and well-being help and social inclusion in the area etc.

Roseville House aims to prevent the reoccurrence of homelessness with each family, as well as providing help and advice during their stay, the key workers will also provide after care to ensure they have the financial information, independent skills to run a house, look after their children adequately and to look after their own health and care needs, to prevent them losing their house and becoming homeless again.

Although I found this service extremely beneficial and lifesaving for these families, like a number of other Associations and government run bodies Roseville House did not cater for 16-17 year olds who find themselves leaving care or homeless. 16-17 year olds are a vulnerable group in society and are sometimes missed as an important group who needs vital care and support from all care provisions to ensure their health and well-being are catered for and that they don't run the risk of becoming homeless further down the line.

"Youth is a crucial, formative stage in the life course, opportunities and experiences at this age, and decisions made at this point can fundamentally affect a person's long term life changes." Chartered Institute Housing (2000; 132)

Throughout my dissertation I am going to focus my topic on Youth Homelessness, and in particularly 16-17 Year olds leaving Care and Homeless in Northern Ireland.

I have chosen this topic area because homelessness within this group has a major implication on the future of their life's, what a young person experiences at this stage in life may affect their decisions and future in later life.

According to (CIH) 2000 "Young people leaving care are particularly vulnerable to homelessness, surveys have found that a fifth of young homeless people have been in a care setting, and that care-leavers are particularly over represented amongst those sleeping rough or living in temporary accommodation. (…) Homeless young people have poorer mental and physical health than other young people, they are more likely to have alcohol and drug problems. Many young people are not in education, employment or training because they are homeless." Chartered Institute Housing (2000; 83)

Youth Homelessness and young people leaving care in Particular 16-17 Year olds is a major problem as they may not know what's ahead of them and what care and advice is available to help them move on in life and to overcome this homelessness crisis. As a part-time Youth Worker, I wouldn't at this stage be able to broadly advise 16-17 year olds in a homelessness crisis of local care providers who work with this group, or what provisions is out there for them. I want to be well educated about this group so I will be able to pass the information on if needed.

Haworth: (2002, 13) states that there are more homeless 16-17 year olds in the UK than in other EU Countries.

This statement itself I feel is a good reason to study this topic, as it shows that this age groups needs are not being provided by the government and policy providers to tackle youth homelessness. I feel my research will be able to help us find out why this age group is not being addressed.

The Council for the Homeless NI (CHNI) Youth Unit released a report "Youth Homelessness in Northern Ireland - childhood Transition and Social Justice, on November 2011. The HSCB data collected and monitored during 1st November 2010 to the 21st January 2011 stated that 111, 16-17 year olds presented themselves as homeless, 68 of which presented themselves to NIHE with the main cause being relationship breakdown with parents as the primary reason. 18 of which returned to the family home, 33 resided with friends, 13 were put in temporary accommodation and 7 in a care placement. The report showed that these young people had wider support needs as well as being homeless;

The report found that homelessness was not the result of a single event and some of the young people were often known to a range of agencies that had missed opportunities for earlier intervention and preventions.

From the research I have done, all the key reading such as; Children and Young People's Strategy, published by Tony Steed in the Equality Unit in NIHE and Homelessness Strategy for Northern Ireland (2012-2017) published by Housing Executive, indicate that joint working and early intervention is the key to preventing Youth Homelessness and that there is other issues why the young person is homeless and these must be addressed.

(Quilgars, Johnsen; (2008, 107) has stated that Prevention of Homelessness is the most significant policy development in the last decade.

Under Section 27 of the 1989 Children Act and The Children Act 2004 and duties under The Housing Act 1996 require Operational joint working.

"An effective joint protocol will set out a mutually agreed vision, objectives, systems and processes to ensure effective action to prevent youth Homelessness and the provision of sufficient accommodation to meet the range of needs of homeless young people."

I believe this topic is relevant to Housing study as the statistics for this vulnerable Homeless group is still very high after such implementations of policies. I feel there's no better time as the present to study this topic as the NIHE has just released the Northern Ireland Homeless Strategy 2012-2017. It focuses on progress made in homelessness services since publication of the 2002 strategy and highlights the steps necessary to continue this improvement. The Strategy states that;

"In 2010-11, out of the 20,158 households that presented themselves to NIHE as homeless, 1 in 5 was under 25 years old and 1 in 10 of this group was aged 16-17 years old. This just counts for those who presented themselves to NIHE and doesn't include "Hidden" Homeless."

The aim of this homelessness strategy is that long term homelessness and rough sleeping is eliminated across Northern Ireland by 2020.

One of the strategic objectives to help meet this aim is to; Improve services to vulnerable homeless households and individuals including Youth Homelessness. A range of services has been established in response to Youth Homelessness since the 2002 strategy. The strategy promises to; Set out the relevant agencies contribution to the development of preventative programmes that aim to reduce homelessness for this group and review existing joint working arrangements with reference to the delivery of information, assessment and support services.

I believe that my research will be beneficial to the future of Youth Homelessness and meeting the NI Housing Strategy's 2012-2017 aim of ending Homelessness across Northern Ireland by 2020.

From this reading I have chosen my draft title of; Is Prevention and Early Intervention the key to ending Youth Homelessness by 2020?