Homeless young 'escaping net of welfare system'

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Indy Politics
A GROWING sub-class of young people is escaping the net of Britain's changing welfare system, according to a report published today by the Scottish Office in Edinburgh. It concludes that homelessness among young people will continue unless there is a radical programme of government help.

The study, by Glasgow University's housing and social work and policy departments, catalogues a lengthy list of failures by social work and housing services to cope with homeless young people. Changes in the Government's welfare payments system over the past eight years are also criticised as helping to create a sub-class escaping the net of welfare authorities.

Although the research focused on Scotland, and on young Scottish homeless people in London, Professor Donnison, one of the joint supervisors of the research, claimed the findings were relevant to all of the UK.

The researchers interviewed small groups of homeless young people, followed cases where social services had become involved, and tested welfare authorities' responses to 'imaginary cases'.

Suspicious and reluctant to seek help, the report says 'the young homeless and their social workers are apt to get trapped in a cycle of mutual distrust and despair'.

The study claims that there is a worrying 'arbitrariness of decision making' in dealing with homeless young people; that only a minority of social workers regard community care legislation and methods as applicable to the young; and that responsibilities are not well defined.

Although the Government is urged to be more generous in its social security payments for young people, the report calls for a reorganisation of Britain's housing and social work services to improve 'assessment and support' for those who are in danger of becoming homeless.

Between 1980 and 1991, Scottish Office figures show a rise of 124 per cent in the number of homeless families seeking help and a 101 per cent incease in the numbers actually assessed as homeless over the same period. The 1991 figure shows 34,600 homeless of which 44 per cent (14,900) were single, with 7,780 under 25 years of age. The under-18 figure is about 3,000.

Professor Donnison said that current homelessness statistics 'may only represent the tip of a much larger problem'.

Homeless Young People in Scotland: The role of the Social Work Services; A report by the University of Glasgow to the Scottish Office; HMSO; pounds 15.00.