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Homelessness does not lead to 'freedom'

Schools should use their influence on young people to disabuse them of the notion that homelessness will lead to "freedom" and "a great flat", according to a new parliamentary report.

MSPs have called on the Scottish government to collect data on which schools young homeless people attend and to identify any preventative work being carried out. If no such work is being done, the government should find out why, they say.

The challenges facing young people in achieving independent living are highlighted in the report Having and Keeping a Home: steps to preventing homelessness among young people, published this week by the equal opportunities committee.

Informed by first-hand accounts of young people who had experienced homelessness, the report suggests that mediation, respite and schools could all be used as a means of prevention.

Schools could show the reality of being homeless and give practical information about budgeting and the cost of housing and food, argue experts quoted in the report.

They also call for teachers to be trained to identify young people who are at risk of becoming homeless and to intervene in such cases.

There were "very clear triggers" for youth homelessness identified by research, said Professor Suzanne Fitzpatrick of Heriot-Watt University. Such triggers usually emerged between the ages of 14 and 17 and included truancy and exclusion, parents with alcohol or drug problems, homelessness as a child, and episodes of running away, she added.

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emma.seith@tess.co.uk.

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