Impacting the social inclusion and well-being of homeless young people
Every year, over 130,000 people aged from 16 to 24 present as homeless or at risk with many more not counted in official statistics. They are the age group that is most likely to be homeless, with the majority asked to leave by their parents, and many driven out by violence or abuse.
Making a Positive Change in Youth Homelessness
The team at The University of Birmingham has worked with St Basils since 2014 to develop and implement a mental skills training programme, My Strengths Training for Life™ (MST4Life™), which has improved well-being and increased employability outcomes for young people who are homeless or at risk for homelessness. MST4Life™ has influenced policy and commissioning at local and national levels, and has been delivered to over 600 homeless young people with high/complex needs, leading to an estimated £26 million in lifetime cost savings to the public purse.
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Homelessness is a major social issue in the UK, costing the Government over £1 billion pounds/year and resulting in the large-scale deterioration of mental and physical health, sustained social isolation, and low life expectancy. Young people aged 16-24 are disproportionately affected and these problems will persist and escalate into adulthood unless we support homeless young people to overcome their multiple and complex barriers to being healthier and economically independent.
Based on similar mental skills training programmes used with elite athletes, our project aimed to:
- Identify which mental skills are important for helping homeless young people progress towards independence
- Co-create and deliver a programme in partnership with St Basils to reach, engage, and improve well-being and employability in homeless young people who are NEET and facing multiple barriers to independence.
- Develop young people’s mental skills and provide opportunities to learn and practice these skills using psychologically and pedagogically-informed approaches.
- Build sustainability into the programme by training St Basils’ staff to co-deliver MST4Life™.
Our research has shown that the mental skills training approaches more commonly used in sport can be successfully adapted to improve the well-being and employability of homeless young people across a wide range of support needs (e.g., expectant and young parents, care leavers). It has also identified key ingredients for successful interventions with homeless young people, including: be led by the participants; provide opportunities to develop social connections and competence; and be experiential, fun and group-based in nature.
The MST4Life™ programme involves 10 sessions, capped by a 4 day residential trip to the Lake District during which participants stay at the University of Birmingham’s Raymond Priestley Centre on the banks of Coniston Waters.
The programme takes a hands-on approach so that participants learn to recognise and further evolve their mental skills and strengths in progressive personal and group challenges. The challenges and activities include structured reflections that facilitate the development as well as the implementation of skills that help with self-regulation, coping with stress, and interpersonal relations.
As part of the course, participants create portfolios to record their achievements which are used to provide evidence for up to six credits towards their Level 1 Award in Progression accredited by the Open College Network West Midlands.
For more information, visit www.sprintproject.org.
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