Upstream Cymru responds to the challenge of youth homelessness in Wales, intervening far earlier in the lives of young people and their families and identifying those at risk.
Youth homelessness is a significant problem in Wales. Nearly 8,000 young people approached their local authority for assistance with homelessness in 2018/19.
We also know that around 50% of single homeless adults first experience homelessness before the age of 21. While the Housing (Wales) Act 2014 ushered in a more preventative approach to addressing homelessness, assistance is still largely concentrated on the point of crisis.
If we are to truly prevent and end homelessness, assistance must be moved upstream, identifying those at risk of homelessness and ensuring that appropriate support is made available to young people and their families. A paradigm shift is required.
What is Upstream Cymru?
Upstream Cymru responds to the challenge of intervening far earlier in the lives of young people and their families. It is a school-based intervention, where students complete a survey that identifies risk of homelessness, particularly as a result of family relationship breakdown, and support is then offered to the young people and their families.
The intervention involves a collaboration between academia, schools, youth services, homelessness services and Llamau as the support organisation. Upstream Cymru is currently being developed and piloted in several South Wales schools.
The approach is modelled on the Australian Geelong Project, which resulted in a 40% reduction in youth homelessness and a 20% reduction in the number of young people leaving school early.
Upstream Cymru research
Cardiff University is currently undertaking two research and impact projects to support the development of Upstream Cymru:
- An ESRC IAA funded project to support Llamau (Wales’s leading youth homelessness organisation) to develop and implement Upstream Cymru. This includes the co-development of the crucial screening tool survey, ongoing support in the first year of implementation, and a critical reflection on the learning from adapting the Australian intervention for the Welsh context.
- An Oak Foundation development grant to lay the foundations for potential Wales-wide implementation of Upstream Cymru. This research will involve working with all Welsh local authorities to raise awareness of Upstream Cymru and to support them to link their routine homelessness and schools data in order to quantify the number of children becoming homeless from each secondary school in Wales. This evidence base will help inform future selection of schools where Upstream Cymru may be implemented and will provide the baseline against which future progress can be measured.