Over the past year, the Covid-19 pandemic has stripped young people from job prospects, opportunities and for many, a safe place to call home.
Youth homelessness has got worse as a result of the pandemic but it was a problem before. Between April 2019 and March 2020, over 120,000 young people approached their local authority because they were homeless or at risk.
Recent research shows that under 25s are most at risk of unemployment during and after the pandemic, with unemployment forecast to triple to its highest level in 30 years. With a deepening financial crisis looming, sky-high unemployment and a lack of affordable and social housing, this crisis is set to get worse and it’s clear who will bear the brunt.
Centrepoint has chosen not to wait for government action – whose focus continues to be on older rough sleepers – and instead created a roadmap out of this dire situation, proactively finding our own long-term solution: The Independent Living Programme (ILP). There are a number of reasons young people struggle to live independently, and in many cases become homeless, including: domestic abuse, low wages, lower benefits , and a shortage of affordable homes.
The ILP aims to tackle these entrenched societal problems. The multi-million pound project is the first of its kind anywhere in the world and is seen as a major innovation in the efforts to curb youth homelessness and tangibly transform young people’s lives. The ILP will enable vulnerable young people to build sustainable careers without a simultaneous burden of expensive housing costs, whilst freeing up hostel beds Centrepoint currently provide for those in urgent need.
Through ILP, Centrepoint is committed to building 300 homes across London and Greater Manchester. It is aimed at young people aged 16-25, who struggle with or are at risk of homelessness but with the help of Centrepoint’s service, have secured entry-level jobs or apprenticeships. They will be able to live in bespoke, modern, safe, and affordable homes paying rents that are capped at around a third of their salary.
Having a key to your own front door and a stable, long-term job is life-changing for young people. It is such a simple goal, but provides a foundation for young people to live independent, fulfilled lives with unrestricted possibilities.
But a project of this magnitude requires a lot of support. We are grateful to have attracted some of the UK’s leading property developers, philanthropists and senior business leaders, all eager to contribute to Centrepoint’s legacy. They are helping us call on the government, local councils and the private sector to raise essential funds, secure land and property development opportunities, and attract ethical employers that can provide apprenticeships and entry level jobs to our young people.
On 13 November 2019, Centrepoint's patron HRH The Duke of Cambridge officially opened Centrepoint’s first Independent Living Programme offering, Petterson Haberdashers Apprenticeship House, a residential community for seven young people who are enrolled in apprenticeship programmes in Lewisham. The Programme is rapidly expanding, and Centrepoint is currently in talks with councils in Barnet, Hounslow, Southwark, and Manchester.
Centrepoint has worked with disadvantaged people for over 50 years, and I’m thrilled to be spearheading one of its most exciting and inventive programmes to date. The fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic presents an opportunity to build our society back better and transform lives. We now have the chance to create a sustainable legacy and leap forward in our mission to end youth homelessness. By fulfilling the Independent Living Programme, we are paving the way for generations of young people to not face adversity and hardship, but to build a strong, sustainable future for themselves.
To support Centrepoint, or for more information about the Independent Living Programme, please visit www.centrepoint.org.uk