Benefit Sanctions: Is there Another Way? Blog : Young People Talk About Sanctions

Please note that NEHTT is a third party partner and not part of Youth Homeless North East

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Based on there being 42,000 young people aged 16 – 24 years old between January and March 2015, who were unemployed in the North East, we can estimate that there were under 14,000 young people aged 18 – 24 each month who were unemployed. For the period of March 2015 just one month, there were 12,810 18 – 24 year olds on Job Seekers Allowance in the region. It is therefore a fair assumption that the majority of young people who are unemployed are in receipt of benefits.

Last year Homeless Link told us that ‘Charities report that homelessness caused by financial problems due to benefit reductions has increased six-fold. 90% believe sanctions have affected young people’s ability to access accommodation’.  Indeed in our own region the Survey of Youth Homelessness in the North East found that relationship breakdown is still the main cause of youth homelessness but last year this was linked to financial hardship (YHNE, 2014).

sanctions NEHTTSeyi Obakin, Centrepoint CEO, who spoke to the Work and Pensions Select Committee of MPs on the issue of benefits and conditionality said that ‘Whilst there were some positive examples of Jobcentres taking into account the particular needs of young people at my own charity, Centrepoint, there were too many other cases of young people being penalised because they either simply cannot cope or the one-size-fits-all system was failing them in their search for new skills and employment’.

It is clear that young people who are homeless are more likely to be unemployed and visa versa. For the majority of young people, if they are unemployed they will be in receipt of Job Seekers Allowance and Housing Benefit. It is worth noting that we are hearing anecdotally of some people opting out of the benefits system which is a worrying trend when alternatives for vulnerable young people include resorting to survival crime, sexual favours and sex work.

As part of the ‘Benefits sanctions: Is there another way?’ research project, we are listening to young people to hear about their experiences of having their benefits sanctioned; the circumstances and consequences. We want to hear their ideas on what ‘another way’ might look like. We know that young people want to work; we know they want a secure home. We also know they need the right support, support that recognises and meets their needs in order to secure both a home and a job.

Sharon Brown

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