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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

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Homeless project aims to prove prevention is better than cure

 

Homelessness is not inevitable campaigners say

Homelessness charity the Rock Trust is rolling out a prevention programme in schools to help young people and families before they become homeless.

Upstream Scotland is a schools-based prevention project designed to identify and support vulnerable young people who risk being made homeless.

Last year there was a 4% increase in youth homelessness in Scotland. More than 8,000 young people were affected.

In the capital, youth homelessness assessments increased by 15%, and the City of Edinburgh Council have now declared a housing emergency.

Kate Polson, Rock Trust CEO said; “Homelessness is not inevitable, it is not a personal failure, it is a systems failure. With a drastic shortage of homes for people to move on to, prevention is more important than ever.

We know that the single biggest cause of homelessness is relationship breakdown in the home, and that with early interventions like mediation, it is possible to prevent the worst from occurring. We have seen the results of the Upstream model in other countries, now is the time to show what is possible in Scotland, so we can turn the tide on our homelessness crisis.”

Through the method of universal screening, the Upstream model creates opportunities to identify and support vulnerable young people at risk of homelessness.

The concept originated in Australia where it achieved a 40% reduction in youth homelessness. It has also been adapted for use in Canada and more recently Wales by Rock Trust partners Llamau.

In practice, the programme involves the Upstream team working with participating local authorities to oversee the delivery of the universal screener in schools. They then work with the schools to ensure there are routes and access to on-going support options (like mediation) for any young people who are identified as being at risk.

Rock Trust is initially investing donations and funding, including a generous bequest from the liquidation of Balnacraig School in Perthshire, into delivering a three-year pathfinder. Participating schools are Tynecastle High and Craigroyston Academy in Edinburgh, Bathgate Academy and St Margaret’s Academy in West Lothian, and St Kentigern’s Academy and Perth High School in Perth & Kinross.

Speaking about their involvement in Upstream, deputy head of Craigroyston Academy Claire Stewart said: “We are really looking forward to working with the Upstream team and giving our pupils the opportunity to participate in the workshops. I think it will be invaluable for gathering information and putting necessary supports in place.”

Rock Trust are holding an ‘Introduction to Upstream’ at Scottish Parliament on November 29th, where key partners, councillors and MSPs will find out more about the programme, with a special input from Upstream Australia.

The event is being hosted by Ben Macpherson MSP for Edinburgh Northern and Leith Constituency, who said:

"Housing shortages and homelessness are two of the most challenging issues in our capital city. There is a lot of work going on to improve the availability and standard of temporary accommodation and create more social housing. We need new ideas to help address Edinburgh's Housing Crisis and that's why I very much welcome the Rock Trust's Upstream Scotland initiative. This will have a positive impact on young people, nationally as well as locally. I'm pleased to support the Rock Trust and look forward to seeing the meaningful impact this will have."

Upstream Scotland will be externally evaluated by Professor Suzanne Fitzpatrick & Dr Janice Blenkinsopp of I-SPHERE, Heriot-Watt University, and Professor Pete Mackie & Dr Ian Thomas of Cardiff University. It is Rock Trust’s intention to ultimately expand the programme beyond these regions and support a national roll-out.

 

Comments

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James Devine
3 months ago

An excellent game changing strategy, God bless the initiative and all involved.