The number of teenage girls finding themselves without a place to call home is on the rise in South Ribble.
Astonishing new figures reveal that more 15-year-old girls turned up at a Leyland homeless charity for help, than any other age.
It comes as staff at Key, the charity organisation based at Leyland Youth and Community Centre on West Paddock, have been forced to take pay cuts to allow the support for young homeless people to continue.
The annual report from 2011/12 shows that 387 people between the ages of 15 and 25 were offered support from Key, and the number of under-16s is on the increase.
Chair of Trustees, Gwen Crawford, said: “We’ve been going round schools talking to children and telling them that being homeless isn’t the big laugh or the walk in the park they might think it is.
“I think that has helped to raise awareness so that more young people know who we are and where to come to if they’ve got problems.”
In fact, 35 per cent of young people walking through the door came of their own accord, while 15 per cent were referred there by friends or family. The second highest referrals category was for 18-year-old males, and Key dealt with more males overall than females.
Of the total, 76 per cent achieved a ‘positive housing outcome’, which means they were moved into supported housing, obtained their own tenancy, or returned home to their parents. Two per cent were given emergency housing through the council, but the most common outcome was for people to return home, with 41 per cent going back to their parents.
“Young people returning back home is often a positive thing, although not always,” Gwen said.
“But for young people who might be going back into a situation of danger of abuse within the home, this is clearly something we would not promote and returning under these circumstances would not be a good outcome.”
She added: “Homelessness is on the increase and this is shown in figures nationally. There are probably a number of reasons for this, including new ‘welfare reforms’ which the government has been bringing in, which makes private landlords less willing to accommodate people on Housing Benefit.
“It’s a complicated issue, but the impact is likely to be devastating to young people and families.
“Another factor is that a lot of voluntary and charitable sector services, which were paid for by local authorities, are being cut, which means that some of the preventative services that existed in the past aren’t going to be there any more.”
Key’s financial documents show that the charity’s income was £199,889 between March 2011 and March 2012, which mainly came from trusts and local councils. More than £21,000 came from Children in Need, and £43,000 came from Big Lottery funds.
But the organisation had to fork out £184,657 during that time, leaving just over £15,000 in the pot.
Gwen said: “We’re in a better situation than most. We have had excellent financial management over our twenty years and we have built up a sensible level of reserves to enable us to manage better than some.
“But that doesn’t mean the next few years are going to be easy, and our staff are already feeling the impact of that.”
Key is made up of nine voluntary trustees and around 20 volunteers, but the eight paid members of staff who deliver the service have had to take a cut in their wages.
Gwen said: “We’ve had to ask staff to take a pay cut to make sure we can deliver the service we’re contracted to deliver by Lancashire County Council, after they reduced the hourly rate they were willing to pay for the service. Staff have been very understanding, but we recognise it’s not very easy for them.”
She added: “The alternative would be to run the service at a loss and subsidise the council, which trustees didn’t believe would be the right thing to do.
“These are difficult issues which many trustees of charities are having to get to grips with. There are no clear answers – we’re doing our best to find our way through this, the same as many other charities are.”