5 May 2021
A picture of How the pandemic has impacted young people in supported housing

Young people may not have been highest risk for coronavirus, but what about the risks to their mental and educational wellbeing? Sara Keetley, our Operations Director - Sanctuary Supported Living, talks exclusively to Inside Housing.

Much has been written about the impact of coronavirus and the challenges it represents to all sections of society, particularly older people and those with underlying health conditions. This is, of course, of critical importance, and like most people in the country, we are striving for the return to normality that the national vaccination programme will bring.

But what if the risk posed by coronavirus isn’t to your physical health, but to your mental and educational well-being? To your ability to access housing and employment? This is the situation facing so many young people in this country, and at Sanctuary Supported Living we ask: What about them, the lost generation?

There is a range of evidence showing that the pandemic has seen young people disproportionately affected in several key areas, including housing and homelessness, employment and education, healthy relationships, and mental health.

Research from Centrepoint showed that more than 120,000 young people asked for help with homelessness over the past year, and a further report from the charity Young Minds found that 67% believed the pandemic would have a long-term negative effect on their mental health.

We believe we have witnessed the true picture of the scale and complexity of rough sleeping over the past 12 months in the UK, which has fostered a new understanding of the issues and created a movement where government, local authorities, housing providers, third-sector and health partners have come together to act and support differently.

But it’s not just about providing homes or a place to live at the point of being at risk of homelessness or already homeless. Our young people are facing one of the greatest threats of their generation and we need to ensure they receive the right support at the right time to give them the best chance of building a happy and secure future.

Through our specialist supported living services, we aim to meet the needs of this vulnerable client group, looking at them holistically and tailoring the support they need.

For example, the young residents who receive our supported housing have access to bespoke educational and employment support, and staff organise events to mark national awareness days and spark further discussion.

One client who lives at one of our young people’s services in Suffolk is receiving both emotional and practical support on her journey of transitioning from male to female.

Our ability to expand our offering to young people has also been made achievable thanks to our wider group structure. Being part of Sanctuary gives us financial backing to grow our services, alongside the support we provide to people at the heart of communities.

This year, more than ever, we have recognised this need to develop our approach in supporting young adults at risk of homelessness.

One of the ways that we have done this is through the launch of a partnership with the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust. The unique ‘Get on Track to Well-being’ initiative is designed to build resilience, self-confidence, empowerment and a new level of determination in every young adult that takes part.

Through the national programme, former and current professional – often Olympic-level – athletes will deliver virtual workshops, available to all young people in our supported housing. Alongside this, an enhanced programme with mentoring and supported sessions will be delivered at five of our specialist young people services.

The programme aims to improve both the physical and mental health of those taking part, using life experiences from the athletes to channel a sense of personal achievement in the young people.

We have witnessed a rise in feedback from our services that young people are feeling the impact of loneliness, disrupted education and disconnection from existing support networks in the wake of COVID-19. These factors, along with a shortage of employment opportunities in key sectors, including seasonal, hospitality and retail, have led to increasing anxiety levels and poor mental health. The Get on Track to Well-being programme will seek to re-engage young people, empower them to take control and set achievable life goals.

At a time when many young people in our supported living services face uncertainty, we hope the impact of our approach to mentoring, coaching and building resilience will contribute to a settled and stable future, and equip them with the tools to take on the next challenges in their lives.

Our pledge is to continue to provide support to those who need it, help our next generation of tenants in our local communities and celebrate their successes.