Active Inclusion – an Effective Strategy to Tackle Youth Homelessness?

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Active Inclusion – an Effective Strategy to Tackle Youth Homelessness?

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  249 Part C _ Think Pieces  Active Inclusion – an Effective Strategy to Tackle Youth Homelessness? Simon Güntner and Jamie Harding Hamburg University of Applied Sciences, GermanyDepartment of Social Sciences and Languages, Northumbria University, UK Introduction: Active Inclusion: a Framework for Policy – and Services? The Active Inclusion paradigm emerged on the European policy agenda in 2005 during the UK’s EU presidency, and has since then steadily established itself as a point of reference for strategies against poverty and exclusion. The core idea is simple: to be effective for those who are excluded from the labour market, such strategies need to combine adequate income support with access to quality services and inclusive labour markets (cf Council of the European Union, 2008; European Commission, 2008; European Parliament, 2009; European Commission, 2013). This is clearly a step forward from narrow approaches to activation that overlook the wider context of social problems and are prone to fail because of their simplistic assump-tions. It accepts that policy interventions can come in various forms, which need to be properly aligned. Conceptually, the approach resembles the sociological debate about distinct logics of social policy and intervention that can be categorized into rights and regulation, income, ecological measures, and education (Loewenberg, 1977; Kaufmann, 2012). As obvious as the need to see these in perspective and in their mutual interaction may seem, the holistic approach of the active inclusion concept, however, is ambitious and challenging when it comes to implementation.  As policy delivery has typically been fragmented with monothematic programmes running alongside each other in well fenced strongholds of competence and authority, boundaries between organizations need to be overcome, partnerships and networks developed. Furthermore, organizations and their staff have to change internally so that they can cooperate rather than compete. These challenges to collaboration have been discussed over past decades in governance and public management literature (see, for example, Geddes, 2005, pp.8-14; Loffler, 2009, p.215). Whilst many pilot programmes and experimental policy schemes have addressed these issues in recent years, they have not yet triggered substantial progress in practice. The European Commission recently stated: ISSN 2030-2762 / ISSN 2030-3106 online  250 European Journal of Homelessness _ Volume 7, No. 2, December 2013 “Member States have reported little progress in providing an integrated compre-hensive strategy for active inclusion. Almost all are planning partial implementa-tion, but have difficulties or challenges with integrated provision of active inclusion. These difficulties are often due to a lack of administrative capacity, or to the vertical and horizontal coordination of the three pillars” (2013, p.8).  A severe manifestation of social exclusion – and a tricky challenge for social policy that by its nature escapes single pillar approaches – is youth homelessness (Quilgars et al  , 2008). It is often a result of numerous social problems and chal-lenges accumulating to create a crisis where a comprehensive response can require elements as diverse as counselling and advice, housing, financial support, assistance with health issues, and access to education or employment. Others could be added, but these examples demonstrate the potentially large number of organizations that may need to be involved. Hence, to address youth homelessness the three strands of the active inclusion strategy need to be joined up, but access to quality, co-ordinated services is likely to be particularly important.In an action research project, we examined local strategies to support young people with experience of homelessness or at risk of becoming homeless in four cities; Bologna, Hamburg, Malmö and Newcastle. In the course of the project, titled “Local Strategies for the Active Inclusion of Young People facing multiple disadvantages” (known as Com.In) and funded by the European Commission’s PROGRESS programme, social experiments were conducted that built on, and strengthened further, governance arrangements that were already considered to be effective. Instead of introducing completely new initiatives, the aim was to improve existing practices by more sensitively “bending” these practices through small but significant changes. A research objective was to find out if and how these changes could lead to enhanced or new forms of collaboration between relevant agencies.From a broader range of findings, we concentrate here on two challenges to inte-grated agency responses that were particularly evident in the Newcastle and Hamburg experiments. Firstly, with regard to clients, those with the greatest needs – who face the greatest burden in managing their everyday lives – may get lost in complex support structures. Secondly, with regard to service providers, there is a need to set limits and boundaries to manage expectations and resources. These challenges do not negate the potential gains of a holistic approach, but they draw attention to the need for good design and governance of networks to avoid imple-mentation failure and unintended paradoxical effects. What is described by policy-makers rather simplistically as a “one-stop-shop” (European Commission, 2013, p.9) will have to be sensitive to specificities of individual cases and circumstances.  251 Part C _ Think Pieces Setting the Scene: Strategies to Combat  Youth Homelessness in Newcastle and Hamburg This is not the place to describe the specific welfare arrangements in the United Kingdom and in Germany; it should be sufficient to refer to the respective liberal and conservative-corporatist traditions to indicate the differences. In addition, similarities can be inferred from the Third Way philosophy of former heads of state Tony Blair and Gerhard Schroeder, who introduced workfare oriented welfare reforms in the late 1990s and early 2000s, based on an expressed wish to strike a balance between rights and responsibilities (Lewis, 2003). These reforms impacted on strategies against homelessness; those who do not comply with conditions linked to benefit take-up face sanctions, which may cause additional stress for those who already have difficulties coping with labour market requirements. Furthermore, young homeless people are at risk of falling into gaps between services for children and adults. Services for young people are often provided in an ambiguous space between the two distinct systems of youth and adult welfare that have their own rules, institutions and resources and have developed distinct networks of practice. Whilst young adults have begun to receive attention from policy makers as a distinct group, legal age is still a key gatekeeper to rights, services and resources. There is a group of young people who fail to make the transition from childhood to adulthood and are at risk of experiencing exclusion. Welfare arrangements to address homelessness and youth homelessness in Hamburg  In Germany, a key point of reference for services for homeless people are articles 67-69 of the Social Security Code Ch.XII. The German constitution states that municipalities are responsible for providing services of general interest and most cities have established a system for homelessness prevention. There are usually central offices for coordinating the services, which are provided by non-govern-mental organizations (NGOs) in the majority of cases. Key elements of the system are the prevention of eviction and the provision of public housing, advice and medical treatment. The city of Hamburg coordinates the various elements of prevention and provision through coordinating offices for housing need (“Bezirkliche Fachstelle für Wohnungsnotfälle”) (BFW) in each of its seven districts. 1  As ‘one stop shops’, these offices act as an interface between the relevant departments (social services, housing, public order); they also pool the available support in the case of emergency 1  Hamburg is, as Berlin and Bremen, a ’’city-state“, combining municipal and state level (Bundesland) competences. Some municipal competences and tasks are delegated to the seven districts (Bezirke) that have their own public administration (Bezirksverwaltung).  252 European Journal of Homelessness _ Volume 7, No. 2, December 2013 housing and social assistance according to Art. 67 Social Security Code, Ch. XII. The services are, however, not provided by the BFW itself but commissioned from a range of welfare organizations.  A second element of Hamburg’s approach to preventing homelessness is a coop-eration agreement between the city administration and twelve housing associa-tions. The aim of this agreement is to save on expensive special shelters and to provide an entry point to the mainstream housing market. The budget that could be saved is given to these housing associations, so that a win-win situation is achieved. The agreement is reviewed and renewed every second year.The responsibility for the implementation of this agreement lies with the coordi-nating offices for housing need. Their job is not only to help homeless people or households find an apartment, but also to work pro-actively to prevent evictions. To receive support, a certificate of urgency is needed, which is given to homeless people living on the street or in a shelter by the BFW. On the basis of this certificate, three levels of housing need are differentiated. There are a wide range of criteria used to determine whether a homeless household is classified as without further difficulties and able to solve upcoming problems independently (Level 1); with social problems and debts, able to solve upcoming problems on their own but needing financial safeguards for the tenancy (Level 2); or with social problems and debts, unable to solve upcoming problems independently and needing extra support from an NGO in addition to a financial safeguard for the tenancy (Level 3). To tackle the specific challenges of youth homelessness, the German youth welfare system was extended in 1990 and provides housing support services to young people up to the age of 21 (Art. 41 Social Security Code, Ch. VIII; in extreme cases, services are provided up to the age of 27), working in parallel with adult services. In the city of Hamburg, a specific housing project for young male adults was estab-lished in 2009 (19 bedspaces) and a second one (20 bedspaces) is planned. There are also projects to help former residents of supported youth accommodation find an apartment and to provide assistance in their first move into independent living. In addition, young adults can also access accommodation offered under the framework contract mentioned above. Welfare arrangements to address homelessness and youth homelessness in Newcastle  In the United Kingdom, since the passing of the 1977 Housing (Homeless Persons)  Act, local authorities have had responsibility for assessing people who approach them as homeless and, in some circumstances, securing housing for them. A further key policy development was the 2002 Homelessness Act which requires local authorities to work strategically and in partnership with other agencies to  253 Part C _ Think Pieces prevent and tackle homelessness. In 2003, the introduction of the Supporting People  programme transferred money to local authorities to meet the housing related support costs of homeless people and other groups. This money had previ-ously been paid by central government directly to NGOs. The change enabled authorities to commission housing and support services from NGOs and others in line with their strategic aims. Newcastle City Council has commissioned services from Supporting People funds in order to meet the housing and related support needs of vulnerable people. For example, it has created a homelessness prevention fund, which can assist with a wide variety of needs such as providing furniture and paying transport costs to re-connect people to their area of srcin. It also funds several hundred bedspaces of supported accommodation through the Supporting People programme. There has been recognition in the United Kingdom that young adults can fall through a gap in the provision of services, particularly in the area of homelessness. The 1977 Housing (Homeless Persons) Act identified certain groups of homeless people as being ‘in priority need’ for housing and the Homelessness (Priority Need for  Accommodation) (England) Order 2002 added all 16- and 17-year-olds to this list: an acknowledgement that provision for them had previously been inadequate. For those young people who are ‘looked after’ by the local authority in place of their own family (usually referred to as being ‘in care’), it has been recognised for some time that there can be major difficulties at the point where they cease to be regarded as a child and move towards independent living (at which point they begin to be referred to as a care leaver). The Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000 introduced a number of measures to strengthen the support provided to young people in this period of transition. To ensure that there was no financial incentive for local authori-ties to discharge them from care at an early age, 16- and 17-year-old care leavers lost entitlement to almost all forms of state financial benefits – instead local authori-ties were made responsible for meeting their financial needs from ring-fenced funds. In addition, further responsibilities were created for local authorities towards young people in their care up until they were 18: to provide them with (or maintain them in) suitable accommodation, and to give other prescribed forms of support. These new responsibilities meant that the subsequent change to the homelessness legislation, placing 16- and 17-year-olds into the priority need category, did not affect young people in care (although homeless care leavers aged 18-21 benefited from being placed into the priority need category under the 2002 Amendment).
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