The committee welcomed Olivia Nation, children's rights Officer, Leval Haughton-James, experienced practitioner youth worker with a number of young people who were able to provide details of their experiences and issues arising from living in semi-independent accommodation.
All present were asked to give their vision / key words for semi-independent accommodation for young people. A summary of the comments from the meeting are set out below:
· Secure and feel safe
· Independent control of own life and assistance with independence (including finance and day-to-day decisions)
· Someone to turn to that can be trusted
· Kitchen that works and is clean
· Some place to call home and can have friends visit
· Place to enable planning for future life
· Safe place and young person listened to
· To make your own mark and make possible changes to accommodation to enable this
· Privacy and chance to bond with other young people
· Place to be responsible for
· Place to feel happy and supported
· Ambience – proud to bring friends back home
· Place of safety, emotionally and good mental health
· Still feeling connected whilst learning to live independently – be part of a community that is respectful of the multi-faceted semi-independent accommodation.
Following on from these comments, three young people presented their experiences from semi-independent accommodation.
Young person 1 - Semi-independent accommodation
· Lack of privacy and staff can check room without prior notice
· Issues of perceived favouritism amongst the staff enabling some young people to move to the next stage of semi-independent living quicker
· Experience of lack of support
· Trust issues with key workers and sometimes assumptions made without checking with the young person directly about issues that may arise
· Talked about meals on Sundays and recognition of key holiday events within the setting that was welcomed
· The impact of COVID-19 discussed and the fact that the communal lounge just re-opened. However, young people were still not allowed visits from their friends.
Young person 2 – Stand-alone accommodation
· Staff welcoming and accommodation based over three floors and no major issues arising. Accommodation and space satisfactory
· No key worker session yet.
Young person 3 – semi-independent
· Initially placed in in accommodation which was a temporary placement for two weeks that materialised to one and half years
· Trust issues with key workers and favouritism
· Because unhappy was constantly getting into fights and problems at placement
· Maintenance issues with accommodation (hole in ceiling from a leak)
· Not a place felt happy to bring friends back to which meant spending more times at friends’ houses
· Eventually did get removed from placement for behaviour issues and also suffered an undiagnosed mental health illness
· Need to recognise anxiety issues of young people in this setting and a valid reason why may not wish to participate in certain activities (like cooking and other group activities)
· Experience and training for staff at these setting dealing with young people with mental health
· Rent very expensive (£400 per week referenced in this case) so the young person at the beginning of their career will often find themselves going into debt to pay this sum. If on universal credit, the rent would be covered but the issue of financial support for young people when paying this amount of rent flagged as an issue to be looked at
· Request for more background checks on key workers and clear boundaries to be set in this housing
· Issue of pets raised. Accommodation did not allow pets (and one young person had to give up a pet) but a staff member regularly brought their dogs into the placement which was felt to be unfair.
Summary of issues discussed from these contributions:
· Rooms checks flagged and what agreements are in place for these to happen to help protect the privacy of young people. Noted responsibility to protect young people from harm but hoped that that some permission / boundaries could be set to protect young people and ensure privacy
· Suggestion of residents groups in the housing setting / forums within the home to raise issues
· Housing allocation and issues raised by young people having to chase key workers for update on their housing position and not always receiving updates on these applications. The committee queried why young people were not making their applications in their own right with the support of staff to enable
· The designated doctor and mental health professionals responded by reinforcing the importance of achieving a good home setting to support young people with their mental health.
The committee expressed their thanks to all the young people who had given details of their experiences to the committee.
PROPOSALS BY THE COMMITTEE AND KEY ACTION POINTS ARISING FOR INVESTIGATION:
· Shared quality accommodation and the need to look at procuring this provision for young people to help them move onto the next stage in their lives
· Look at agreements and solutions / ideas to protect the privacy of young people in response to issues raised as part of their presentation to the committee. Work to be undertaken and to come back to committee with proposals
· Staffing issues raised and need to set boundaries
· Review of support plan in place currently (end to end review)
· The view that young people should be able to submit their own housing applications with the support from staff
· Concern that young people in some housing settings not allowed visitors currently should be looked into
· Reference to young inspectors and their use in respect of some of the issues/concerns identified
· Why young people are being ‘penalised’ for getting a job and then incurring large rent costs and often going into debt. Seems to serve as a disincentive to finding a job
· Report to committee on progress / update to issues raised.