University of Leicester eBulletin

Research to support vulnerable homeless

University of Leicester researchers in the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry are engaged in a pioneering research initiative looking at housing problems experienced by young people, in a project to develop the new role of Family Support Worker.

The BLISS Team (Beaumont Leys Independent Support Service) was established to support people with housing problems in the age range 16-25 years, a group more likely to have low levels of family support, a lack of basic living skills and self-confidence, and some experience of domestic violence. Young people are also at high risk of tenancy failure and homelessness.

One of the few services in the UK working intensively and long term with vulnerable young people at risk of homelessness, the team was established in the Beaumont Leys area of Leicester.

A distinctive feature of the project is that it is being used to develop the Family Support Worker service rather than to evaluate it at a later stage. Views of users of the service are key to the research and research methods have been adjusted to incorporate these. Focus groups and interviews have been set up with homeless and recently rehoused families, ensuring their feelings and experiences are recorded.

Early results suggest that the BLISS team is meeting the complex needs of the target population and is able to respond promptly when a crisis arises. The holistic nature of the service is especially valued.

Support ranges from expert tenancy advice to offers of practical help with decorating and furniture, as well as information on community resources, education and training opportunities. Operating from a shop front in a residential area makes the service easy to access.

Victoria Tischler, a former Research Associate in the University of Leicester Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the Greenwood Institute, said: "This research project will ensure that the development of the support service remains client-focused and responsive, offering help that young families have identified as crucial.

"It will help to maintain tenancies and prevent homelessness in the future."

The BLISS Team project has recently received funding of 4,000 from Leicester City Council.

Ather Mirza/Jane Pearson
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Last updated: September 2002
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