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Families under pressure

By Abigail Gill

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It’s almost exam season; a time of stress for both young people and their families. Tensions can run high and tempers might fray. It’s a time when family relationships can really be tested.

Two-thirds of the homeless young people we support at Centrepoint are in our services because their relationships with family have broken down. They simply aren’t in a position to stay at home. Sometimes it’s just not safe to do so. Our research shows that there is often a range of other issues going on at home which pushes a family towards breaking point. For years they may have battled poverty, overcrowded and unsafe accommodation, poor mental health, domestic violence or unemployment. It’s hard for a relationship to withstand all that.

When a young person moves into Centrepoint accommodation, they have access to a range of in-house services to help them address any problems they might be facing. Often we need to address these before the young person can be ready to rebuild their relationships with family. They have access to specialist health services, learning support to get back into education or employment, access to a mentor, and immigration support.

Once the young person is ready, we support them to re-engage with their family. Mediation is a powerful tool in facilitating this process and is offered by lots of local authority housing departments.

“Family mediation will not come over judgemental; you’re a neutral person to listen to both parties. Whatever is in your heart, you can pour it out. It can be the early intervention” – Centrepoint practitioner

However, Centrepoint research found that mediation is sometimes used as a means of encouraging the young person to return home without resolving the underlying problems. It is so important that it is impartial and delivered by independent, trained professionals. We also know how much more effective it is when offered early.

“I didn’t get mediation until I’d experienced mental health problems and was having treatment in hospital… If I’d had that before being homeless, I think it would have been a great thing” – Jay, Centrepoint young person

At the heart of mediation is the desire to rebuild relationships. This must remain central, even if the young person isn’t in a position to return home.

 

Abigail Gill

Abi is Policy and Research Officer at Centrepoint, the youth homelessness charity. She has led research and policy work examining how youth homelessness can best be prevented, with the aim of improving services and central government policy. Alongside prevention, Abi also leads research and policy work on issues such as care leavers and homelessness and welfare reform including Universal Credit. You can keep up to date with the work of Centrepoint’s policy team on Twitter: @CP_Policy

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