Parents can once again breathe a sigh of relief as the summer holiday ends and the kids go back to school.
And while your little darlings might grumble about having to do homework again, it’s good for them. Education prepares the adults of the future for the future, which is entirely in their hands. Our society acknowledges that education is a public service which is important enough to be mandatory for all children from ages five to 16.
And yet, more and more young people are finding themselves being pushed out of both education and a stable home. A report by the charity Shelter estimates that 80,000 young people experience homelessness in the UK every year. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they are sleeping rough, many are sofa surfing, living in supported housing, or staying in hostels. But even though they aren’t all on the streets, being deprived of a stable home can still be a damaging experience; hostels aren’t the best place for youngsters.
The report by Homeless Link goes on to say that more than 40% of young people facing homelessness are not in any form of education or training. Education and homelessness affect each other. Lack of an education limits your career options, making homelessness more likely. It also works the other way – becoming homeless makes it more difficult to get an education.
Maintaining an education while homeless is difficult for a number of reasons. Living on the streets or in supported accommodation will undoubtedly make it difficult to concentrate, and might also result in bullying from your peers. It’s also difficult practically, having enough time to complete homework and have the proper uniform on top of supporting yourself and possibly holding down a part time job. It’s also difficult because of cuts to education funding, smaller university grants and the scrapping of the Education Maintenance Allowance. It doesn’t help that under 25’s get less money for income support and people under 21 get less money for part time work. This is also true of people in higher education. Because income support isn’t enough to match housing costs, some university students are finding themselves facing homelessness.
How can this situation be better addressed? John Morris, a homeless student who writes for the Guardian, believes the government should continue to invest in suitable education and fund more hostels and supported housing. They should also spend more on educational benefits and offer a higher number of scholarships for homeless students. Morris, a politics student at Keele University who has lived in supported housing since the age of 16, challenges the misconceptions that people who are homeless are ‘no hopers’. His story shows how important education is in getting young people who are homeless back on track.
In a previous blog, I wrote about the food bank Trussell Trust’s new plan to give out free financial advice to their clients. Financial education is a good start, but I think a complete education is needed to help young people avoid the pitfall of homelessness. It’s the government’s first line of defense when it comes to enabling young people to have a successful future. If they are going to escape homelessness, It’s vital that all children receive an education. But that’s only possible if the government makes homeless students a priority.