His Royal Highness The Duke of Cambridge visited St Basils in Birmingham on Friday to see a unique programme designed by University of Birmingham academics to help empower homeless young people.

Homelessness affects the lives of around 80,000 young people in the UK every year (Source: End Youth Homelessness Alliance), costing the economy more than £2 billion. Consequences of homelessness vary but can include infectious diseases, cardiovascular disease and depression. The city of Birmingham is the first (and only) city that has pledged its support to eradicating youth homelessness.

St Basils is a charity which provides support and accommodation to homeless young people aged 16-25 in Birmingham. It has teamed up with the University of Birmingham in a unique project which offers a bespoke Mental Skills Training (MST) programme. The mental skills training programme aims to help individuals recognise and build upon their existing mental skills and assets, working towards education, employment and training opportunities.

MST is most commonly used by sport psychologists to help athletes achieve peak performance and wellbeing in their sport. The team from the University of Birmingham are working to develop MST to help disadvantaged young people.

Dr Jennifer Cumming, Senior Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Psychology at the University of Birmingham’s School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences, who is also the lead on the MST programme said: ‘mental skills training empowers young people from St Basils to recognise and build upon their existing skills and assets, enabling them to make positive life changes and engage with education and work opportunities. The aim is to help these young people enhance their potential by equipping them with the same kinds of tools used by world class athletes to be confident and resilient individuals’.

Professor Myra Nimmo, Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Head of College of Life and Environmental Sciences said: ‘The University of Birmingham is delighted that our research is being used to benefit the young people at St Basils. The engagement has already generated new questions which challenge our academics to ensure our activities are not only world leading in terms of their academic constructs but are also purposeful to our communities’.

Jean Templeton; Chief Executive of St Basils said of the partnership with the University: ‘We are very proud of our partnership work with staff from the School of Sport, Exercises and Rehabilitation Sciences at the University of Birmingham. We are grateful to the department for assisting us in our challenge to find a solution to helping young people develop the confidence and mental skills needed to find a positive pathway out of homelessness and re-engage with education, training and employment.

‘They have listened to our young people and worked with us to develop this programme to help ensure it gets results and the learning from this will greatly assist us in rolling this out this programme to our other supported accommodation schemes. We’ve had positive feedback on the pilot programme and staff have seen great improvements in the confidence, self-belief and general well-being of our young people’.

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  • St Basils works with young people aged 16-25 who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, helping over 4000 young people per year across the West Midlands region with specific services in Birmingham, Sandwell, Solihull, Worcestershire, the Wyre Forest and Coventry. At any one time they have over 400 young people living in 27 supported accommodation schemes, which for some young people includes their young children as well. They have a range of prevention, accommodation and support services to help young people regain the stability they need to rebuild their lives, gain skills, training and employment and move on. The aim is to help them successfully break the cycle of homelessness, with a shared hope is that the next generation will be free from this blight on young lives and instead will go on to develop and thrive and experience a bright, purposeful, fulfilling future.