Effects of homelessness
Homelessness has a serious impact on both the young people affected and the wider society. Young people describe their lives as being 'on hold' while they are homeless, making it much harder for them to achieve their goals and ensure their own well-being.
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Homeless young people are much more likely to be NEET - not in education, employment or training. A young person arriving at Centrepoint is four times more likely to be NEET than average.
Homeless young people often experience a disrupted education. Crises during their adolescence mean that 29% arrive at Centrepoint without any qualifications. Over a quarter have English as a second language.
Barriers to work
Poor qualifications and high support needs make it difficult for homeless young people to find work. Welfare benefit rules also mean that young people can be no better off in work than on benefits. Finding a job can be particularly difficult for refugees due to the language barrier and a lack of experience of English recruitment procedures.
As a result of these challenges, only 5% are in work when they arrive at Centrepoint.
Poverty and desperation means some homeless young people turn to crime. This further decreases the chances of them finding work and escaping their situation.
Homeless young people are also more likely to be victims of crime. Their situation puts them at risk of exploitation, particularly if they become homeless at a very young age.
The combination of very low incomes and chaotic lifestyles means many homeless young people find themselves in debt. Research conducted in 2005 showed that 82% of Centrepoint young people were in debt, owing £1,000 on average, but as much as £15,000 in one case.
Most young people who arrive at Centrepoint have never received advice about how to manage their money. Desperation can lead some young people to resort to expensive loans, money from loan sharks, store cards and expensive mail order catalogues as they cannot access more mainstream products.
This acts as a barrier to them achieving other goals, such as going to college, eating healthily and living independently. The stress caused by debt can also have a serious impact on young people's mental health.
The cost of youth homelessness
The cost of homelessness to the public purse is very high. This is due to a number of factors including:
- Higher use of acute health services and the criminal justice system
- Expensive temporary accommodation
- Prolonged periods on welfare benefits
Research in 2008 by the New Economics Foundation indicated an annual cost to the state of £26,000 for each homeless person.
Investing in homelessness services saves a significant amount for the taxpayer by preventing some of these costs. A report by Communities and Local Government showed that the Supporting People programme, which pays for accommodation-related support services for a range of groups, including homeless young people, saved a total of £3.41 billion a year, against an overall investment of £1.61 billion.