Why do young people leave home? The bigger picture behind ‘family breakdown’

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In our most recent ‘Young and Homeless’ survey, family breakdown accounted for half (49%) of all youth homelessness. 

For a young person, moving out of a parent or carer’s home can seem like an individual decision – even to the people involved in it. We often attribute such decisions to how well the individuals get along with one another, what conflicts they have gone through, and their personal ability to reconcile their differences. But what can be harder to identify at the time is how large-scale economic and political factors can place a strain on people’s ability to stay under one roof.

Homeless Link’s research has repeatedly shown that young people, aged 16-to-24, primarily become homeless because parents or caregivers are no longer willing, or able to accommodate them. In our most recent ‘Young and Homeless’ survey, family breakdown accounted for half (49%) of all youth homelessness. However, our group of ‘Youth Voice Advisors’ – young people with lived experience of homelessness – told us that current statistics fail to incorporate many of the complex reasons why young people leave home. This led us to explore how financial hardship, housing and labour market pressures can make it difficult or even impossible for young people to stay with their parents or carers.

Youth unemployment

Our survey showed almost half (44%) of young people accessing homelessness services were not involved in education, employment or training. In our interviews, several young people who were living in a geographically isolated area with few employment opportunities were asked to leave because they were unable to find work. This demonstrates the effect of labour market factors on youth unemployment, which can, in turn, impact young people’s housing options. Unemployment rates for 16-24-year-olds stand at approximately 12% and although this has fallen in recent years, these figures remain higher than the unemployment rate for other working age people.

In addition, those jobs that are available to young people can often be low paid, insecure and present few opportunities for career development. Other research shows that major economic changes have reduced the availability of well-paid, secure employment opportunities for young people, particularly those towards the bottom of the class structure.  These economic changes include: the decline of heavy industry and manufacturing in the UK; a decline in permanent full-time jobs and the growth of part-time, casual or temporary employment; and a decrease in young people moving straight into employment after leaving compulsory education since the 1970s, with more young people being dependent on the family and state for longer periods.

Uk Care supported living services focus on supporting young people facing homlessness, including those who are:

  • Care leavers or looked after children
  • Challenging Placements
  • Young parents
  • Experiencing family or relationship breakdown

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