TEENAGERS seeking help from the council due to looming concerns over homelessness are becoming increasingly common - with numbers at their highest point in years.
Last year saw an increase of two-thirds in the number of 16 and 17-year-olds approaching homelessness services, according to a report to be discussed by senior councillors on Barnsley Council’s overview and scrutiny committee on Tuesday.
There were 62 approaches for help last year among 16 and 17-year-olds - compared to 37 the year prior - as well as 21 people helped into placements and two into bed-and-breakfasts.
Numbers of approaches and placements are at their highest since 2018, according to the report.
During the pandemic, a freephone number and outreach work were put into action and 141 placements of rough sleepers were made - some of whom are still being supported.
But the report, written jointly by directors of public health, children’s services and core services, said work was ‘ongoing’ to lessen reliance on bed-and-breakfasts and hotels - with a renewed emphasis on prevention and early intervention.
The council’s spending on temporary accommodation has more than trebled since before the pandemic, from £135,381 in 2019/20 to £443,524 last year.
Last year there were 171 placements in bed-and-breakfasts, which dropped from 337 the year before but is still higher than the five years before that.
Placements involving children have seen a gradual rise, with 96 last year the highest since 2016 when there were 17.
The report said cases involving young people are a ‘key area’ for the homelessness team.
“The evidence shows that the young people that present as homeless rarely just have a housing issue, there are a combination of factors leading to their homeless situations and a lot of support is required to get them ready for independent living,” it said.
“There is a clear ‘cliff edge’ at 18 and this is when the young people are at their most vulnerable in terms of transitions into adulthood and the services and people around them.”
People aged 16 to 24 made up around a quarter of all approaches, at 495, from last April until the middle of this May.
Of those, 84 were owed a prevention duty and 95 a relief duty.
Local authorities have a statutory need to provide prevention or relief duties to prevent people from becoming homeless, or find an alternative if that’s not possible, respectively.
According to government figures, between October and December, 44 of 196 people - 22.4 per cent - owed a relief or prevention duty by Barnsley Council were between 18 and 24 years old.
That’s higher than 29 of 145 - 20 per cent - between April and June, and 43 of 216 - 19.9 per cent - between July and September.
Typically among young people, reasons for becoming unsettled are due to family and friends no longer willing to accommodate them - leading to ‘sofa surfing’.
A new panel has been formed to ensure young people have a ‘smooth transition’ into adult social care, mental health, housing and substance misuse services, while a social worker has been in post since November who works between homelessness and social care services.
“Progress has been made to prevent and support 16 or 17-year-olds at risk of homelessness however it is acknowledged that further work needs to be done in reduce the number of homeless presentations and placements of young people,” added the report.
“Consideration of further accommodation options may be necessary, especially for those young people who have experienced trauma and present with a range of multiple and complex needs.”