Campaign launched to protect homeless and excluded young people
A campaign called Their Future – Your Choice is being launched to urge Derbyshire County Council to consider its moral responsibilities before “abandoning the County’s most vulnerable young people to a life of transient homelessness and social exclusion”.
Derbyshire County Council has approved proposals for large cuts in its adult care budget. This would remove support from all groups of vulnerable people except those for which the Council has a legal responsibility and lead to an 85% cut in funding to support young people in greatest need across Derbyshire.
A small proportion of vulnerable young people aged 16 and 17 would continue to receive support, however this would cease on their 18th birthday. Unless the young person is eligible for statutory support for another reason (e.g. disability) they would no longer be supported from public funds.
Those at risk include young people who are the victims of family breakdown, domestic violence and sexual abuse; who have drug, alcohol and mental problems; have been in the care system, involved with the criminal justice system and often have low educational attainment.
The SAFE consortium, comprising three local support organisations, fears that this funding cut will lead to the abandonment of hundreds of Derbyshire’s most vulnerable young people and has launched the Their Future – Your Choice campaign to challenge the proposal.
SAFE service users launch the campaign and are pictured with Cllr Clare Neill
Andrew Redfern, Chief Executive of Framework* a specialist homelessness charity and SAFE consortium lead member, said: “Less than two years ago the County Council commissioned a consortium of providers – Adullam, Framework and Stonham to deliver the SAFE service to work with almost 300 of the County’s most challenging 16-24 year olds at any one time.
“This highly successful service has been operating effectively and has already supported more than 600 young people: its positive outcomes have been documented in detail and are well known to the Council.
“These deep, unprecedented and unfair funding cuts would mean the loss of more than £800,000 annually leaving just £172,000 per annum, which is insufficient to support the many young people across the whole of Derbyshire who need this service. The Council commissioned SAFE to meet an urgent need which the Council itself identified; but at this level of funding it will be impossible to continue.
“This will have a catastrophic effect on the County’s most disadvantaged and troubled young men and women. The Council is effectively abandoning the County’s most vulnerable young people to a life of transient homelessness and social exclusion.
“Unless something is done to reverse this disastrous plan there will be no safety net for these very needy young people, some of whom are already parents, and so we run the risk that the deprivation they face will be passed on to the next generation.
“What makes these proposals so very disappointing is the strong commitment to support young people in the Derbyshire Labour Party manifesto for last year’s local elections. This made a firm commitment to support young people struggling with ‘complex problems during their teenage years’ and ‘facing a very uncertain future’”.
Symone-Lauren, 19, who has been helped by SAFE, explained: “I was homeless, then living in a B&B until my social worker referred me to SAFE. The service helped me with my finances and with my illnesses. If it wasn’t for SAFE I probably wouldn’t have a roof over my head now or have these good memories. I also probably wouldn’t have my job or sorted out my health issues.”
Phillip, 19, from Long-Eaton explained how SAFE helped him when he was forced to leave the family home. He said: “I was sofa surfing some nights, and on other nights when I had no options I would just wander around. It wasn’t very nice. It makes you feel unwanted. You feel a burden on the people you are staying with and you just don’t feel right.
“I was called in to do an interview by SAFE about four days after I was kicked out. They helped to get me on track, found me a place to live, supported me with budgeting and generally helped me to learn how to live my life….Without SAFE, in all honesty, I would probably be living in a prison cell.”
With the support of young beneficiaries of the service, the SAFE consortium partners are launching a public campaign to raise awareness of the needs of young people and what has been achieved. They are urging members of the public to ask County Councillors to consider their moral responsibility regardless of whether there is a legal duty towards them.
With the slogan Their Future – Your Choice, the campaign (launched with a photo call on Thursday, 5th June at County Hall, Matlock) is a timely reminder of the long-term consequences of short-term political choices.
Members of the SAFE consortium, supported by current and former service users, the probation service, the police, social services, and others, are urgently encouraging people to take part by:
- writing directly to the Leader of Derbyshire County Council, Cllr Anne Western
- writing to their MP and County Councillors via www.writetothem.com
- signing an online petition
Full details and resources to help supporters of the campaign are available at www.frameworkha.org/theirfuture