YMCA Norfolk’s latest figures reveal harsh reality of social conditions for youngsters

YMCA residents who took part in the annual celebration event at The Forum in Norwich. Picture: Julia Holland.

YMCA residents who took part in the annual celebration event at The Forum in Norwich. Picture: Julia Holland. - Credit: Julia Holland

The harsh reality of social conditions for hundreds of youngsters have been emphasised by the latest emergency accommodation figures released by YMCA Norfolk.

Just over 500 bed nights of emergency accommodation were provided between the start of April 2012 and the end of March 2013 - up from 330 for the same period in 2011/12.

YMCA Norfolk published its yearly report at its annual celebration event at The Forum in Norwich on Tuesday night.

The Christian charity's chief executive, Tim Sweeting, spoke to a packed audience of over 120 in the Curve digital theatre at The Forum and said: 'Norfolk's young people find themselves in a society that is changing faster than ever; they are subject to greater pressure to grow up earlier, achieve more and consume more.

'But they are impacted by greater levels of family breakdown, financial pressures, rural transport issues, an always-on social media culture, lack of employment opportunities, and structural issues such as poor careers guidance or an impenetrable and unforgiving welfare system.'

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Other new figures showed that 447 young people were given a safe home and support towards independent living during 2011/12, and 187 were moved on to independent living.

The total of 504 bed nights of emergency accommodation does not necessarily represent 504 different people, but 504 offers of up to five nights of emergency accommodation.

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The vast majority of these, 269 cases, were through referrals from Norfolk County Council's children's services department.

The rest are referrals from local authorities, with 109 coming from Broadland, 73 from Norwich, 39 from South Norfolk and 14 from Breckland.

The report was published at the annual celebration of the work of the YMCA in the county, where residents from YMCA accommodation in Norwich, Great Yarmouth and King's Lynn sang, danced, rapped and told their own stories.

Mr Sweeting said: 'It is hard to be a young person in Norfolk today; it is even harder when you have little or no family support. But the stereotypes of young people are almost universally negative.

'Tonight you are going to meet the real youth of today, those who are striving to be the best they can be, who have hopes and aspirations and who are incredibly talented.

'Please help us to change those stereotypes, be moved into action by the contrast between what you see tonight and all that you are told about young people so that together we can remove the barriers that prevent so many of them from achieving their full potential.'

The event's audience was also addressed by YMCA Norfolk president, General Lord Dannatt, and chairman Richard Pennington.

The audience was told that during the last year YMCA Norfolk had also completed the transfer of Umbrella Housing Group's operations and assets to the YMCA, consisting of 15 properties in Norwich offering 35 units of accommodation to single parent families in Norwich.

There were also 569 contacts with parents to provide advice and guidance and two new housing schemes for over 30 young people opened in Great Yarmouth.

Mr Sweeting also said the organisation had started the roll out of restorative practice in housing services, which will move the YMCA approach to housing management issues towards working to rebuild broken relationships.

He added: 'Our work in Norfolk over the last 150 years has adapted to meet the needs of each generation of young people.

'For those of us who have been called to be stewards of this great organisation for this generation, we are committed to ensuring all we do gives them the best chance of reaching their potential in body, mind and spirit.'

For more details about YMCA Norfolk, and how you can support its services, go to YMCA-Norfolk.org.uk

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