Setting the context: young people, housing and social policy
This book aims to examine housing issues relating to young people within the broad context of contemporary debates within British social policy. This is a timely point at which to draw these three fields together, since the Labour government elected in May 1997 is in the process of defining its stance on a range of social and welfare issues; housing policy is in a state of flux as a consequence of a range of economic, political and cultural forces; and young people are increasingly being defined as a group requiring specific policy interventions. However, it is rarely the case that these three areas are considered in unison: for example, social and welfare changes are instituted for young people with only minimal recognition of the need to understand how these will interact with their ability to secure housing. The ‘New Deal’ for young people is perhaps a prime example, with employment policy makers only belatedly realising that young people need a secure housing base from which to hold down employment or training, and that restricted Housing Benefit payments to under-25s might undermine regulations encouraging young people to work. Similarly, broad housing issues are discussed without understanding that housing is an arena in which young people are particularly vulnerable: they often lack knowledge of their housing options; are frequently in low-paid and erratic work; and may not yet have the skills needed to negotiate positive housing outcomes for themselves. Thus, for example, policies that prioritise the allocation of social housing to families and older single people fail to acknowledge that young people are one of the groups least capable of competing for alternative housing in the private rented sector.