Reported by tes – the news we share raises awareness of equality issues being reported in the media.
Recent figures from the Scottish government have highlighted a direct link between youth homelessness and the care system. More than 700 people in Scotland who had left care within the last five years registered as homeless last year, with at least one young person a week going straight from care without a place to call home.
Young people – not just care leavers, but more generally – are often not given the skills they need to maintain tenancies, look after a home and survive on their own. Care leavers lack a safety net for when they can’t pay the bills on time or they don’t understand how to pay their council tax which can cause a domino effect on the rest of their life. One bill unpaid can quickly spiral into missed payments elsewhere, forcing them into a debt that they can’t pay and, before they know it, they’re homeless.
By the time a young person leaves school, they might be receiving top marks for maths, English and biology, but if you ask them what their rights are as a tenant, more often than not, they’ll struggle to answer.
There is a lot of ongoing conversation around homelessness and how to tackle it, with a lot of organisations working towards doing so. Yet, while it’s vital that we are reacting, it’s also crucial that we are also being proactive in our approach. We need to prevent the situation from arising in the first place.
The tenancy and citizenship course set up by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) in 2015 covers modules such as being a good neighbour, gaining and sustaining a tenancy, looking after your home, and managing personal finances. It imparts young people with a sense of the rights and responsibilities they need to be aware of as a tenant.
Yet, only a small proportion of Scottish young people have completed or been offered the course.
While the causes of homelessness can be extremely complex, evidence shows many local authorities are experiencing breakdowns in tenancies; various reasons result in tenants being asked to leave.
If we can teach young people the skills they need to survive on their own two feet, maybe we can increase the number of successful tenancies and allow young people to live healthier and happier lives.