Young homeless people from across the North East came to Parliament this week to tell MPs about the challenges facing homeless people in our region. They explained how low wages and a lack of support from Job Centres meant some young people were finding it impossible to find stable work and so couldn’t afford proper housing.
Emma hosted the event together with Youth Homeless North East, an organisation which works with young homeless people across our region. A number of the young people had the opportunity to meet their local MP and speak to them face to face about the challenges of homelessness.
The meeting agreed that the Job Centre is not well-prepared for supporting young homeless people. The Claimant Commitment required by jobseekers does not recognise the exceptional challenges homeless people face when looking for work. Some of the young people said they felt “totally lost” in the system.
Others said that they didn’t feel like the system was giving them any real help. They explained that the training courses they were told to go on didn’t offer any real skills that could help them into a worthwhile career.
The harsh sanctions regime can also be disastrous for a young homeless person. One young man said he had lost his support for six months without a proper explanation as to why.
Both the young people and MPs agreed that the Department for Work and Pensions needed to improve the way it engaged with homeless people, and that treating people as individuals rather than statistics was the best way to get them into a decent job that could make a difference to their lives.
“Life is incredibly tough for these young people at the moment. They want to work and make their way in the world, but for that they need real opportunities and stable employment. Right now the system is designed to funnel them into any job, whether it pays enough to live on or not. A lot of them rightly feel trapped, and that the system is failing them.
“I think it’s really important that MPs hear these stories, and that’s why I held this meeting in Parliament. I’m really grateful to all the MPs who came, to Youth Homeless North East for all their help organising the visit, and most of all to the young people for sharing their experiences with us and making such a powerful case for change.