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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 November 2006, 13:15 GMT
New moves to help young homeless
Homeless
Family breakdown often leads to homelessness
A 164m package for young homeless people in England, which will provide training and emotional support, has been unveiled by the government.

Plans involve establishing a national network of supported lodging schemes and providing universal access to family mediation services.

Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly also wants more hostels transformed to offer training and skills facilities.

In a speech, Ms Kelly stressed the importance of preventing homelessness.

Facing the problem

Under the scheme, community volunteers would be given training so they could offer temporary homes to young people who would otherwise be sleeping rough.

Youngsters would also have access to advice and mediation services.

And, after the temporary accommodation, they could be housed permanently, or choose to return to their family home.

We need to give people in temporary accommodation certainty
Ruth Kelly
Communities Secretary

During her speech, the communities secretary said: "We have a vastly-improved safety net to make sure that families and vulnerable people are much less likely to face the tragic consequences of becoming homeless.

"There is much more to do. We cannot slow down, and we are not going to. With nearly 94,000 households still living in temporary accommodation, there is no room for complacency.

"With vulnerable young people being placed in bed and breakfast hotels, we must do better still."

The minister, giving her first major speech on homelessness, also reflected on the fact that this week marks the 40th anniversary of seminal BBC drama Cathy Come Home, which looked at issues surrounding homelessness and influenced thinking.

She said "huge progress" had been made in preventing and tackling homelessness since the programme was aired.

Ms Kelly also explained that the government wants to help more people out of temporary and overcrowded accommodation.

Family 'training'

Shadow local government secretary Caroline Spelman said: "Any measures which genuinely tackle homelessness are welcome but there is a great deal of work to do as the number of families in temporary accommodation has doubled since 1997."

The founder and editor-in-chief of The Big Issue, John Bird, said 80% of the people who sell his magazine come from local authority support.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme it meant that "at some stage their family broke down and they end up at 16 out on the streets and the only thing they can do is sell the Big Issue".

"We have to start educating people and training people on how they bring up families," he said.

Official figures

Jenny Edwards, chief executive of Homeless Link, said services for homeless people "are increasingly focused on helping people turn their lives around", adding that Ms Kelly's announcement would move things "further forward".

Parents no longer willing to accommodate their children is now the biggest single cause of homelessness accounting for nearly one-in-four (23%) of more than 90,000 new cases accepted by local authorities each year.

In addition, relationship breakdown accounts for a further 20% of homelessness.

In 2007-08, 74m will help support the package of new measures while a further 90m is being invested through the hostels capital improvement programme.

However, the problem of youth homelessness may be bigger than official figures suggest.

More than 250,000 people under the age of 25 in England and Wales could be classified as homeless, according to estimates supplied by charities dealing with the homeless, housing benefit numbers and local authority data.

Some charities argue that many youngsters left home as teenagers and now live in poor quality hostels or on friends' sofas - and are not included in official data.





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