Pandemic Response 2/3. Responding to the Government: The Impact of COVID-19
As part of our mini-series on the Pandemic Response, we have so far looked at the ways to remain socially connected during lockdown. You can read Part 1/3 here.
This time, we are going to look at how the SPRINT project team have responded to the Government around the impact of the pandemic.
Our response to the Government
On 1st May, Professor Jennifer Cumming and Dr Mary Quinton from the SPRINT project submitted a response to The Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee Inquiry. The document centred on the impact that COVID-19 will have on young people experiencing homelessness, as well as on housing support services.
Prof Cumming and Dr Quinton drew on the 6+ years of research on the SPRINT project. We know that young people who experience homelessness are disproportionally affected by societal issues. But they are more ‘hidden’ than those who sleep rough on the streets. We recently wrote a blog post on this topic.
The document explained how important it will be to consider the impact of COVID-19 on young people experiencing homelessness. It will be most important to consider how the pandemic will affect:
Let’s take a closer look at these, to find out a bit more.
Health and well-being
Widespread social isolation measures due to COVID-19 will particularly impact young people without a stable and permanent home. With already much higher rates of anxiety, mood disorders and suicide attempts than typically housed peers, they are likely to experience elevated anxiety and depression during and immediately following social isolation.
Poor health and well-being, along with social isolation, can lead to social exclusion. This is where young people feel cut off from society. For example while in lockdown, homeless young people are at risk for assault, exploitation and abuse. This is because young people may be unable to leave an unsafe living environment, or they may lack access to their normal levels of support.
What is now being done to address this?
Since the document was submitted, the UK Government has announced that it will amend the Domestic Abuse Bill. This means that now, anyone who is made homeless as a result of domestic abuse will have a legal right to housing.
So what do we think will be the immediate effects of COVID-19, after lockdown ends?
Lack of employment opportunities and financial difficulties
Finding and getting into work is particularly tough for young people experiencing homelessness. Figures show that roughly 44% experience challenges engaging with employment opportunities.
COVID-19 is likely to increase the number of these young people becoming unemployed, especially for those on zero-hour contracts. This will likely increase financial worries of being able to pay rent and bills. It will also put them at higher risk for eviction from private landlords and supported accommodation schemes.
Dropping out of education
We know that many young people experiencing homelessness face challenges engaging with education. COVID-19 is likely to increase the numbers of young people dropping out of education. Any form of home schooling for these young people, who may be without parents or a caregiver (or might be young parents themselves), relies on them being proactive and self-regulated.
But these young people, understandably, may be pre-occupied with other challenges. They may not have the time, energy, or motivation to engage in independent learning during and after lockdown.
Re-engaging in education once lockdown is lifted may be challenging, because:
young people’s mental health may have deteriorated
they may experience financial difficulties
grieving the loss of loved ones who died in the pandemic.
Now we understand a bit more about what the impact of the pandemic is likely to be, what can we do about it?
Psychologically Informed Environments (PIE)
Housing support services will need approaches to address the psychological and emotional needs of service users brought about by COVID-19 and social isolation. We know from experience that a PIE housing service helps young people to be resilient and thrive, not just survive difficult circumstances.
This results in better outcomes not just for young people but also for staff. For example, improving mental health and engagement, increasing job satisfaction and reducing job stress and burnout. You can find out more about PIE and its importance by checking out our Delivery Guide.
Mental Skills Training
We know that mental skills training is an evidence-based way to improve young people’s resilience and well-being. It also improves young people’s chances of engaging in opportunities for education, employment and training (EET).
Through our MST4LifeTM programme, developed with St Basils, we know that young people who engage with mental skills training improve their resilience and positive outcomes. We have published a lot of evidence supporting the programme.
The learning from this programme has now been translated into three freely available resources. Let’s take a look at each in turn.
1. Mental Skills Training Toolkit – a strengths-based resource, including 6 flexible, evidence-based tools to improve mental well-being and EET outcomes for disadvantaged young people
2. Mental Skills Training psychologically-informed Delivery Guide - a guide for staff and practitioners to help build confidence and competence to deliver the toolkit content in a psychologically informed way
3. Mental Skills Training Commissioning and Evaluation Toolkit – building from evidence-based frameworks and our first-hand experiences, this resource aimed at practitioners and commissioners provides useful tips for planning and evaluating strengths-based development programmes.
Now that we have explored the resources that we have made available to support young people as they face the challenges of COVID-19, let’s look at the key recommendations laid out for the Government.
Our key recommendations for the Government are:
With the focus having been on rough sleepers so far in this pandemic, we urge the Government to now consider the specific needs of young people aged 16-24 years who are homeless and living in temporary accommodation, most of whom will already have high and multiple complex needs
NHS mental health services are provided with adequate resource to give targeted preventative and early intervention support to homeless young people and prepare for an increase in the prevalence and severity of mental health problems in this group
The Government should provide additional resources to homeless accommodation and support services to ensure they have adequate staffing to cover the support needs of young people
The Government should recommend and provide resources to housing and support services so that they can adopt evidence-based approaches to supporting the psychological and emotional needs of homeless young people during and post lockdown.
Keep an eye out for next week’s post, where we will be concluding our Pandemic Response mini-series. We’ll be looking at how you can use grounding techniques to improve your resilience through lockdown. We look forward to seeing you then!
To find out more, you can read a copy of Prof Cumming and Dr Quinton’s document. Want to find out more about mental skills training with young people? You can download our Toolkit trilogy and check out our free resources.
Johnson, R. & Haigh, R. (2010). Social psychiatry and social policy for the 21st century. New concepts for new needs: The ‘psychologically-informed environment’. Mental Health and Social Inclusion, 14(4), 30-35. Retrieved from https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.5042/mhsi.2010.0620/full/html
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