A vital need
Ensuring young people have suitable, stable accommodation is a critical factor in preventing offending. Accommodation is vital for young people to maintain consistent attendance at school, gain employment, engage with health services and benefit from programmes to address offending behaviour. It is a core component of resettlement post custody. Lack of suitable housing options contributes to overuse of the secure estate.
To ensure that there is a coordinated approach to preventing homelessness, together with enough provision of suitable accommodation for young people who offend, the YJB published Suitable, Sustainable, Supported: A strategy to ensure provision of accommodation for children and young people who offend in November 2006. The draft version of this document was made available for consultation in 2005. An overview of the responses to the draft have been summarised in this consultation response document.
The guidance in this area of the website considers and responds to the 2004 YJB survey, Accommodation Needs of Young Offenders, which found that YOTs are experiencing fundamental difficulties in accessing sufficient, suitable accommodation to meet the level of demand for social housing among their client group.
There are various issues we seek to address through this guidance. These include:
- shortage of suitable accommodation of all types
- routine use of unsuitable bed-and-breakfast accommodation
- young people remaining in unsuitable accommodation at home or 'sofa surfing' with friends
- young people refused early release because they have no address to return to
- young people being remanded and sentenced to custody because of a lack of accommodation
- young people leaving custody without suitable accommodation
- lack of suitable alternative accommodation options for young people deemed by local housing authorities to be intentionally homeless, because of their offending behaviour, and denied access to mainstream housing services
- young people evicted from their accommodation, because of their offending behaviour and inadequate levels of support, who then enter a cycle of repeat homelessness
- young people denied access to housing projects because of previous behaviour, debt, support requirements, residence requirements, or because of strict eligibility criteria or exclusion policies
- young people excluded from local authority housing registers and registered social landlord (RSL) waiting lists (e.g. on account of ASBOs)
- local policies, practices or other barriers that may disproportionately affect some young people who offend, e.g. cherry picking by RSLs.
It is acknowledged that accessibility problems may be centred around concerns about the risks involved in working with young people with offending behaviour or who are at risk of offending. These concerns may be either legitimate or merely perceived, but either way they contribute to the exclusion and marginalisation of these young people and as such need to be challenged. Typical concerns to be addressed include:
- the lack of understanding of the barriers that vulnerable people face, and lack of awareness of the positive role the YOT can play in supporting young people
- housing management concerns about working with young people; lack of confidence of housing staff in their ability to work with this client group and manage the difficulties that arise. (This may be linked to a concern that they will be left without ongoing support from the YOT or referral agency and may or may not be coupled with an unwillingness to work with this client group)
- the support levels required, the lack of life skills and young people's ability to manage a home
- concerns that young people may be more likely to abandon their housing when problems arise and that a lack of assertiveness may make it difficult for them to prevent visitors who may create problems, or prevent them negotiating successfully with neighbours
- concerns around the risks posed to other residents by young people with an offending history, e.g particularly around the risks posed by arson or schedule one offenders, those with chaotic behaviour or or those with anti-social behaviour issues
- concerns around those with complex needs such as mental health problems or substance misuse for which services may not be available.