Preventing Youth Homelessness Summit held

18/06/2019, PR-9088

Preventing Youth Homelessness Summit
Preventing Youth Homelessness Summit

​Wakefield Council recently played host to a Preventing Youth Homelessness Summit (13 June) which brought together various organisations to help end youth homelessness across the district.

More than 80 people from different partner organisations, including the Council, Department for Work and Pensions, Communities and Local Government, Cabinet Office, housing organisations, Healthwatch Wakefield, NHS, West Yorkshire Police and voluntary and community organisations including Wakefield Citizen's Advice Bureau, came together to share best practice and showcase current activity taking place in Wakefield.

Attendees heard poignant first-hand accounts of youth homelessness from two young people from St Basils, a charity that works with young people aged 16-25 who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

The two young people talked about their experiences of homelessness, what worked well and what didn't work so well in the response they received from services, what support they needed, and advice or observations they can give service providers particularly in housing and children's social care about how to respond to young people at risk of or experiencing homelessness.

The key speaker at the event, chaired by the Council's Corporate Director for Regeneration and Economic Growth Tom Stannard, was Victoria Kell from the Ministry of Housing, Community and Local Government who shared why the Duty to Refer and effective homelessness prevention for young people are so important, as well as providing advice and outlining support available for local authorities.

It also saw the launch of the Council's new Homeless 16/17-Year-Old Joint Working Protocol and a chance to further discuss the Duty to Refer, a duty which affects many public authorities and came into being on 1 October 2018.

Cllr Margaret Isherwood, Wakefield Council's Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, said: "To hear from the two young people was such an eye-opener for those present and helps all the different services understand what we are doing right and what we need to do better and that will be so beneficial to all.

"We are all working towards one aim and that is to end youth homelessness across the district."

Cllr Faith Heptinstall, Wakefield Council's Cabinet Member for Adults and Health, said: "The summit was a fantastic opportunity for everyone to get together and share insight into how we can tackle youth homelessness together.

"It is great to see all these different organisations pulling together to tackle a very important issue and I think everyone left the summit feeling positive about what we can achieve."

The Duty to Refer is a statutory duty on certain public bodies to refer people they are working with who are threatened with homelessness to the Housing Needs Service so they can access the appropriate support and assistance.

This summit is a culmination of teamwork and shared vision developed through a project group consisting of Children in Care Services, Housing Needs, Strategic Housing and the Integrated Front Door to ensure effective joint working, homelessness prevention and appropriate accommodation when needed are available for vulnerable young people and care leavers. This is the one of the aims of the Wakefield Services for Children Improvement Plan that the Council and its partners have put in place to improve their services for children, young people and families.

It is also hoped that the recently approved Wakefield Housing Plan, a three-year plan to deliver high quality housing for residents and improved standards for privately rented properties, will help to prevent homelessness.

If anyone wants to report rough sleeping they should contact the Preventing Rough Sleeping Service on 01924 385722.

For advice about homelessness and housing options contact the Housing Needs Service on 01924 304362/304360.

Tom Stannard and Victoria Kell
Tom Stannard and Victoria Kell

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