‘It’s important young renters get help’: Revamped programme will provide ‘living skills’ to young people

Amy (left), who was placed in supported accommodation in Norfolk following a period of homelessness,

Amy (left), who was placed in supported accommodation in Norfolk following a period of homelessness, has benefited from the tenancy and independent living skills (TILS) programme run by Your Own Place. She is pictured with her volunteer mentor Trudy. Picture: Your Own Place - Credit: Your Own Place

A social enterprise helping young people in Norfolk make the move to adult life says children in the county should be taught more skills to help them live independently.

Your Own Place founder and director Rebecca White with, left, Jarrod Ewles (tenancy and independant

Your Own Place founder and director Rebecca White with, left, Jarrod Ewles (tenancy and independant living trainer) and Simon George, a former service user.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Your Own Place, based in Norwich, has devised an educational programme called Tenancy and Independent Living Skills Plus (TILS+), which teaches young people about aspects of independent living such as budgeting, paying taxes, job-searching and 'self-care'.

It is a revamped version of the skills programme Your Own Place has been teaching to young people on its mentoring schemes and at its Norwich training flat for the past five years.

But founder Rebecca White says children should be taught these life skills much earlier.

'Who wouldn't want us to prepare people for adult life and to keep their home?' she said.

'Expecting people to understand the complexities of bank accounts, savings, interest and borrowing, or how to access universal credit is a big ask.

'Combine this with feeling isolated or not knowing what is in your tenancy and you've got a recipe for disaster and even homelessness.

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'If we don't teach it in schools, children's homes, foster care, supported accommodation, prisons, colleges or universities, then how can we expect people to have this knowledge?'

One former TILS programme user said it had 'really opened my eyes to how you live on your own'.

She added: 'I've learned so much and it's hit me that in reality, yes, I may struggle but there are alternatives to get me through it.'

The new TILS+ programme was officially launched with an event at Your Own Place's Norwich training flat on Thursday.

Your Own Place primarily deals with vulnerable young adults and those leaving care.

As of November 26, there were 1,203 looked-after children in Norfolk.

Published data from Norfolk County Council, which is responsible for looked-after children, shows 431 children ceased to be looked after between April 2017 and March 2018. Of these, 150 were aged 16 or older.

The county council offers services to care leavers up to the age of 25 including help with accommodation, money, education and training, and health and wellbeing.

'The feeling when you picture building blocks to starting a life is indescribable'

Following a period of homelessness Amy, 20, moved into supported accommodation.

She said: 'My journey of homelessness was pretty rough. But luckily I was surrounded by a vast array of support networks. Starting with the help from the loved ones I had In my life at the time, all the way through to the mentoring I am receiving from Your Own Place. The mentoring is so beneficial because it helps me keep on track with my budgeting, mental health and well being, let alone my pets and relationships too. My mentor is a friend that always goes the extra mile.

'Since living independently, I have been offered help from a number of services including Your Own Place, MAP, various charities that helped equip my flat with the things I really, really needed but really couldn't afford.

'What I found the hardest about having my own home was the thought of feeling lonely and scared. Having your own home can feel like this initially, because the responsibility is so high but that's what pushed me to make this the best home I can for my self. But I know I couldn't of done it without the compassion and time Your Own Place have given to me to get through those feelings.

'The lead up to making the step to becoming fulling independent is exciting and scary, the responsibility is huge and that's why it's so important that new young renters get all the help that's out there. This isn't just so that they can live a happy life, but to keep people off the streets during this crisis.

'One of my personal favourite things about having a home of my own was that I get to help people that have been in my situation so that they can get back on their feet. The feeling you get when you picture building blocks to starting a life and a family here is indescribable.'

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