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Project Focus: Your Chance
By Alexia Murphy - 23 April 2018
Here at Depaul UK, we believe in the potential of people. That’s how we approach the work we do with young people supported by our services across the country.
Like others, we’ve felt the impact of public funding cuts, but we’ve also been early adopters of new and innovative opportunities. That includes approaches such as using social investment to work with young people to help them achieve and sustain housing and employment outcomes.
One example of that is a service called Your Chance, which we recently finished delivering. Although the closure of a service is tinged with sadness, we have known that the service would end for some time.
What we didn’t know was the impact that Your Chance would have on the 216 young people who took part in the project. In fact, running it has changed the way that we work as an organisation.
About the programme
Your Chance was set up on 1 January 2015, as one of seven Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) Fair Chance Fund Social Impact Bond (SIB) programmes. The programme was described as offering a new opportunity for young people aged between 18 and 24, who were not in education employment or training and who were homeless but not in priority need under homelessness legislation. To be eligible, young people also had to be unable to be accommodated in a supported housing scheme and in places where there was a lack of specialist supported accommodation.
We delivered the service in Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale and Greenwich, to a cohort of young people had been known to services for years. They lacked accommodation and the support to go with it, and had few options left open to them.
The team at Depaul relished the opportunity to work differently with this group of young people and chose to adopt a Housing First approach. This is a model which sees permanent, affordable housing as the first step on the ladder, then provides support and community links to help avoid a return to homelessness.
While we were delivering Your Choice, we stuck with the young people on the programme for three years, moving with them if housing didn’t work out. We were struck by the impact that different housing and employment markets had on our work. Even within the three areas of Greater Manchester that we worked, we had to adopt different strategies, depending on the buoyancy of the local employment market and the harsh reality of housing availability.
Our operating costs were funded entirely by social investors for the three-year period. The team worked with young people on achieving evidenced-housing, education, training and employment outcomes on a 100 percent payment-by-results basis.
Referrals to the service came through local authorities or their authorised agency, so there was no cherry picking of participants! We turned away only two referrals – because they fell outside of the age requirements.
Of 216 young people on the programme, 35 percent had been in the care system, 54 percent had involvement in the criminal justice system and 70 percent had a mental health support needs.
In total, 192 of the young people sustained their accommodation for over 18 months while on the programme. This was an amazing achievement, considering where these young people had started their journeys. When the programme began, young people had been rough sleeping in Manchester’s tent city and experiencing multiple evictions.
A total of 91 moved into education or training and 61 started work. As always though, it is the individual stories that show the impact a service has. One young man with autistic spectrum disorder and a love of bicycles was helped to access and sustain an apprenticeship in a bike shop, which turned into a job and independence.
A trip to Slovakia
One highlight was when a group of 10 young people volunteered and fundraised feverishly for 18 months to raise £10,000 for a life-changing trip to Slovakia. The group worked at a Depaul night shelter in Bratislava, sorting seven tonnes of donated clothing. They learnt about homelessness and life in Eastern Europe, walked in the mountains, cycled and toasted marshmallows around campfires. At the end of their trip, they collectively decided to donate the remaining £1,000 balance of their fundraising efforts to the night shelter’s fundraising appeal to buy a minibus.
When the young people presented back to us their experiences of Slovakia at our International Ambassadors ceremony, it was not the planning or the fundraising, or going on an aeroplane for the first time that meant so much to them - and it wasn’t even the camaraderie or facing their own fears!
What they articulated as having the biggest impact on them as individuals was having the opportunity to do something for people, who they perceived to be worse off than themselves.
When you work with young people as selfless and empathic as that, it isn’t hard to believe in the potential of people.