Minister Fitzgerald welcomes launch of Youth Homlessness Reports

-   Susan Moss

Frances Fitzgerald TD, Minister for Children & Youth Affairs, has today welcomed the launch of “Every Child a Home: A Review of the Implementation of the Youth Homelessness Strategy and Young People’s Homeless”, and “Housing Pathways and Young People’s Homeless and Housing Pathways: Key Findings from a 6-year Qualitative Longitudinal Study”.

The Minister said “the launch of these reports provides us with a platform to examine how we dealt with youth homelessness, what we did right, where we erred and what direction we should now take”, adding that there are many positives to be taken from the reports.

Both reports identify the need for early interventions and the importance of timely assessments and the provision of adequate services. Recommendations from “Every Child a Home” underpin the findings of TCD’s longitudinal study – “Young People’s Homeless and Housing Pathways.”

“Every Child a Home”

The Department engaged the Centre for Effective Services (CES) to undertake a review of the implementation of the Youth Homelessness Strategy, 2001, to establish the extent that the strategy has been successful and to identify any blockages or challenges to its implementation. CES has consulted with the relevant service providers, NGOs, DCYA and young people as part of this process.

The key finding from this review is that there have been significant improvements in the service response to youth homelessness in the last decade. The review shows that range and standard of services has improved over the past decade and this has contributed to a decrease in the number of children and young people accessing services through the homeless sector and the virtual elimination of children sleeping rough. Children who present as homeless or at risk of homelessness are now generally assessed and provided with services on the same basis as children who present with child protection and welfare concerns.

While improvements are noted, access to mental health and intellectual disability services for children in crisis or out of home was a problem in some areas. Service responses for children aged 16-18 need more focus as does the management of the transition between child and adult services.

Emphasising the importance of inter-agency working, the Minister said that “key agencies must continue to work together – on the ground and at policy level. There is a risk of these young people ending up on the streets, as they reach adulthood, unless we ensure that Government Departments, Statutory agencies and the voluntary sector work in a cooperative and complementary manner.”

Speaking at the launch, Katie Burke, Centre for Effective Services said –

“We hope this review provides an impetus for the development of services for children and young people out of home or at risk of homelessness, particularly in relation to intervening early to prevent homelessness, better interagency working and providing planned and coherent transitions into adulthood.”

‘Young People’s Homeless and Housing Pathways: Key Findings from a 6-year Qualitative Longitudinal Study’

This Study, which was funded by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and the Dublin Region Homeless Authority was initiated in 2004. It was carried out by the Children’s Research Centre, Trinity College Dublin and involved three phases of data collection over a 6-year period with homeless children and young people in Dublin City. This period of contact and engagement provided a unique opportunity to gain insight into the processes that steered participants ‘journeys’ into, through and out of homelessness, as well as their perspectives on their homeless and housing situations over that time.

Phase 1 of data collection in 2004-2005 included 40 participants aged 14-22. Thirty of these participants were re-interviewed in 2005-2006 during Phase 2. In Phase 3, which was conducted in 2009/2010, 70% (28/40) of the original sample were re-interviewed. At this phase, all participants had made the transition to adulthood. 15 had successfully exited homelessness while 13 had remained homeless.

A number of underlying factors were identified among the 15 participants who had successfully exited homelessness at Phase 3 and these were identified by Dr. Paula Mayock, Principal Investigator of this Study who spoke at today’s event:

‘The findings of this study demonstrate that the homelessness of many young people can be resolved if they receive the necessary services and supports. Access to stable housing at the earliest possible juncture is critical and this must be accompanied by appropriate supports if returns to homelessness are to be avoided. The findings also clearly document the negative consequences of lengthy periods of unresolved homelessness and signal particular challenges in this regard for young men. One of the clearest messages arising from the research is the need for more fluid systems of intervention to meet the needs of young people aged 18-25 years who are homeless or at risk of homelessness’  

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