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Schools' homelessness warning from Centrepoint

The youth charity says that issues at school can be an early sign of future homelessness

Posted by Julian Owen | November 04, 2017 | Health & wellbeing

It has been reported that long absences from school and not completing exams are two of the most common identifiers of youth homelessness. Youth homelessness charity Centrepoint is asking the nation’s 450k + educators to look out for signs of homelessness in students this winter. 

The charity has completed research with the largest ever group of young people who have experienced homelessness in a bid to get a true account of the challenges faced. Results show that issues in school and education are common in the lead up to a young person becoming homeless:

- Almost half of vulnerable young people (49%), were absent from school for long periods due to problems at home

- 51% were unable to finish exams/coursework due to a problematic personal life

 - Nearly a third (28%) never felt settled as they had moved from school to school 

 Centrepoint is calling on educators to be particularly vigilant to these signs of potential homelessness among at-risk students and direct them to the newly launched Centrepoint Helpline - a first-of-its-kind free service designed to provide help and guidance for vulnerable young people: 0808 800 0661.

Centrepoint wants to raise awareness that the inability to complete education or take the necessary exams to gain qualifications can be due to a set of personal circumstances beyond pupils' control, not a lack of commitment as is sometimes assumed. Further Centrepoint research showed that 58% of young people who had experienced homelessness had encountered violence at home, so the lack of stability in education can be a catalyst that forces young people out on their own. 

"Teachers are on the front line when it comes to supporting their students through education and are in a unique position to notice changes in behaviour."

John became homeless aged 17, when his mum kicked him out. “It was partly my fault and partly hers," he says. "She told me to get out of the house, over the phone. I got my stuff and left. I stayed at my boyfriend’s, sofa surfed.  I was in college when I got kicked out and unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to graduate; I was in my third year doing Fitness Instruction. That had a big impact on my life. Because I didn’t have my qualification and I didn’t have experience, my work options were limited.”

Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said, “Teachers are on the front line when it comes to supporting their students through education and are in a unique position to notice changes in behaviour. Exam periods in particular can be immensely stressful, and this is all too easily exacerbated by the difficult home lives of many young people. It is essential that students can access the advice and help they need at a critical time, and the NEU welcomes the efforts of Centrepoint to provide this.” 

Centrepoint CEO Seyi Obakin commented, “Sadly, homelessness forces independence on young people regardless of whether they’re ready. Centrepoint provides tailored support in a range of areas to give young people the skills to live and work independently. This group have bags of potential, but a disrupted education leads to jobs with no security and the ramifications if they lose that job can be devastating. It’s a brutal cycle that keeps young people perpetually at risk of homelessness which is unacceptable, especially as we approach a cold and dark winter.”

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