Industry cash increases jobs for homeless

Live-in work schemes: Research shows results of French work programme compare favourably with YTS
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The Independent Online
An innovative scheme to help the young homeless by giving them work and a roof over their heads has proved cost-effective and successful within two years.

Independent research into the progress of nearly 2,000 young people on "foyer" work- and-housing programmes reveals that one in two go straight into a job when they leave and 80 per cent quit the scheme either for employment or training. Eighty-two per cent of YTS leavers go straight into jobs, further education or training. YTS schemes are only for people aged between 16 and 18 and do not target disadvantaged groups such as the homeless.

Foyers for young people were invented by the French and provide accommodation, training and counselling for young people and the homeless, financed by money from industry. According to the researchers, Annabel Jackson Associates, there were 1,457 bedspaces available last year. Twenty-eight foyers have opened so far, another 34 are in the pipeline and a further 23 are being planned.

Companies such as Grand Metropolitan, Marks & Spencer, British Telecom, Barclays and Tesco have backed foyers with grants, staff time training, work experience and jobs for young people. It costs between pounds 25,000 to pounds 217,000 a year to run them.

The study looked at 20 foyers between October 1993 and September 1995. The average age of the residents was 20, and between 20 and 30 per cent had been in trouble with the police. Nevertheless, 736 people had been placed in jobs (an average of 55 per cent) and 325 had been put in training.

More than 70 per cent of the employment was full-time, with the remaining 30 per cent split evenly between temporary and part-time.

Those who use the foyers tend to be male (65 per cent). While the average age is 20, a quarter of residents are aged 15 to 17. About 70 per cent of foyer residents are unemployed when they move in, the remainder being in college, on government schemes or claiming benefit as long-term sick.

The foyers themselves are often converted buildings, with seven having been built specially. Some are managed by YMCAs. The vast majority of rooms are single rather than shared and they are a mixture of self-catering and communal eating. The aim is to be "non-institutional", and residents are able to decorate their rooms as they wish and have their own keys. All have lounges or bars.

"Much foyer work is delivered on a one-to-one basis," said the report. "This is the most time-effective and flexible approach for the young person. Foyers say residents who have failed to respond to previous training or education courses experience breakthroughs with this approach. Foyers may also attract users who reject the regimented approach of mainstream programmes."

Don Macdonald, chief executive of the scheme, said: "The foyer programme is proving more cost-effective than comparable government schemes, and is reaching those young people such as the homeless or those who dropped out of school."

Sir John Banham, chairman of Tarmac, also endorsed the schemes. "Foyers are one of those inspired ideas which can overcome high levels of unemployment and homelessness among young people," he said. "This research shows foyers do work and that young people can make a success of their lives if given the right support."

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