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Homeless Young Persons

Volume 958: debated on Thursday 16 November 1978

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what action has been taken by his Department to implement the recommendations of the working group convened by his Department to investigate the problems of homeless young people which reported in July 1976.

As I said in my reply to the hon. Member for Leek (Mr. Knox) on 21st July 1977, even in time of acute financial pressure much of what was recommended was already being done to varying extents by local authorities— [Vol. 935, c. 669–71.] Since then more action has been reported by the several Departments to which the recommendations were addressed.The working group recommended that regard should be had to the needs of single people in the preparation of the Housing (Homeless Persons) Act 1977 and its associated code of guidance. This was done. The Act requires that local housing authorities secure that accommodation is available to those they are satisfied are homeless and in priority need—this includes those who are vulnerable as a result of mental illness or handicap or physical disability or other special reason. It further requires that authorities give advice and appropriate assistance to all other homeless people. The code of guidance, to which the Act requires authorities to have regard, makes specific reference to the working group report and says that the view of the Secretaries of State is that it would be appropriate for authorities to consider homeless young people who are at risk of sexual and financial exploitation as having a priority need.The report also made recommendations in relation to the better use of existing accommodation. The Department of the Environment, in a circular last year entitled "Better Use of Vacant and Under-Occupied Housing", brought a number of such measures to the attention of local housing authorities.The Housing Corporation allocated £17 million of its 1978–79 budget for hostel projects of all kinds, including hostels for young people and are also funding self contained accommodation for single young people.The Supplementary Benefits Commission contributes to the funds of three voluntary organisations catering particularly for young people: St. Giles, Camberwell, London; Centrepoint, Soho, London and St. Basil's, Birmingham; other projects receiving grants under schedule 5 of the Supplementary Benefits Act 1976 take in some young people. I understand that no applications have been received which can be regarded as stemming from the publication of the report.When a claimant for supplementary benefit is issued with a voucher to enable him to obtain board and lodging at a particular hostel, lie is now given also a notice which includes a prominent note telling him that lie does not have to stay at the accommodation nor remain there for the duration of the period specified.The voluntary service unit of the Home Office continues to make grants to two organisations concerned with the welfare and accommodation problems of homeless young people. The West End co-ordinated voluntary services, which co-ordinates the activities of the number of organisations providing services for young people, received a grant of £51,750 in 1977–78 which has been increased to £62,300 in 1978–79. GALS (Girls Alone in London Service), which operates an advice centre for girls at Euston Station and provides short term hostel accommodation, received a grant of £10,000 in 1977–78 which has been increased to £12,000 in 1978–79.My Department has commissioned a study of a walk-in counselling centre for young people in Hammersmith. The project is expected to begin shortly. A DHSS research report on advisory and counselling services for young people

* , published in 1978, which gives information about 80 projects concerned with counselling young people, should advance consideration of the problems of providing these services.

* HMSO DHSS Research Report No. 1.

Conferences have been held and articles published in youth magazines aimed at focusing the attention of those working in the youth service on the needs of homeless young people.

My Department, together with voluntary organisations, is funding an experimental walk-in primary health care centre in Soho for homeless young people. The project is being evaluated.

In May 1978, an experimental community-based short-stay residential crisis unit for unstable young multiple drug misusers was opened in London, funded by my Department and the London Boroughs Association. This project is also being evaluated.

The Home Office probation and after care department has awarded grants to a number of day centre projects which have catered for various disadvantaged groups including young offenders. Many of these day centres provide training in social skills, and in acquiring or regaining the work habit.

To a large extent, the recommendations relating to employment were already being carried out by the time of the report's publication. In the youth opportunities programme, introduced in April this year, emphasis is given to providing opportunities for unemployed young people with the poorest qualifications. Additional funds have been made available through the Department of Employment's special 100 per cent. funded scheme to strengthen the careers service in areas most affected by high levels of unemployment. Finally, more attention is now being paid to ensuring that the service receives adequate publicity.